Robots to be used in trials for REMIX fuel

30 December 2022

Russia's TVEL will begin the first trials of its TVS-5 fuel design in 2023 and manufacture the first assemblies robotically, a conference heard.

Robotic welding of fuel assemblies (Image: Rosatom)

Reporting on a conference held by the fuel specialist of Russia's Rosatom group, TVEL, the industry magazine Strana Rosatom listed a number of developments under way including TVEL's plans to begin trials of its TVS-5 design next year at one of the new VVER-1200 reactors at the Novovoronezh-II nuclear power plant.

Three test fuel assemblies will be produced and used in the plant to gather real-life performance data before being taken for laboratory analysis. Given good results, the fuel assembly design would be trialled on a larger scale before eventually being rolled out as a product offering. Russia's Rosenergoatom operates all the country's nuclear power plants, while VVER-1200s are also under construction in Bangladesh, Egypt and Turkey.

In addition, TVEL said that the trial assemblies will be produced by robots in a fully automated area without the presence of any workers, noting that this is a trial in itself. If successful, TVEL plans to create a pilot production line in 2025 at the Siberian Chemical Combine at Seversk.

Nuclear fuel based on fresh uranium presents only a small radiation hazard during manufacture, so the creation of fuel pellets and their manufacture into rods and assemblies is usually done by hand using basic protective measures. The drive for robotic manufacture stems from Russia's plans to create a fuel cycle using REMIX fuel, where TVS-5 assemblies would use a mixture of fresh uranium, recovered uranium and plutonium from recycled fuel, presenting a more challenging radiation hazard.

Alexander Ugryumov, Senior Vice President for Scientific and Technical Activities of TVE, told the conference a number of potential options are being researched for customers using TVS-5 fuel: three REMIX options with different amounts of plutonium, and one with the more traditional mix of uranium and plutonium oxides known as MOX. "Thus, we will provide maximum flexibility and readiness to form optimal fuel cycles, based on the needs of a particular customer," he said.

Researched and written by World Nuclear News