TVEL to supply fuel for China's fast-neutron reactor

10 January 2019

TVEL and CNLY have signed a contract for the supply of nuclear fuel for the CFR-600 sodium-cooled pool-type fast-neutron nuclear reactor under construction in Xiapu County, in China's Fujian province. TVEL is the nuclear fuel manufacturer subsidiary of Russian state nuclear corporation Rosatom, while CNLY is part of China National Nuclear Corporation (CNNC).

A cutaway of the CFR-600 design (Image: CNNC)

The contract, which was announced today in Beijing, covers the initial loading of nuclear fuel, as well as supplies for refuelling during the first seven years of the reactor’s operation. To serve the contract, a new manufacturing line for the CFR-600 fuel assemblies is planned at the Elektrostal Machine-Building Plant, a TVEL facility located in the Moscow region.

TVEL President Natalia Nikipelova said the Russian company is committed to "all-encompassing cooperation with Chinese partners" in fast-neutron reactors and closing of nuclear fuel cycle. She noted that, in addition to Rosatom’s experience with uranium-based fuel manufacturing for commercial fast-neutron reactors, it had last year launched batch production of uranium-and-plutonium mixed-oxide (MOX) fuel for Russia's BN-800 fast reactor. Its Chinese portfolio also includes a contract for the supply of uranium-based fuel for the China Experimental Fast Reactor, CEFR, with fuel deliveries already taking place, she added.

Evgeny Pakermanov, president of Rusatom Overseas, which coordinated negotiation of the contract, noted that as this is a demonstration project, Russian engineers will create a new kind of nuclear fuel based on the Chinese design.

"[O]ur team had to draw up the whole contract from the scratch taking into account all the peculiarities of the project," he said, adding that talks with the Chinese side had started last June. "Thanks to the high professionalism of Rosatom’s united team and the positive approach of the Chinese partners, the contract has been agreed upon in a record-breaking time," he said.

The CFR-600 fuel supply contract was signed as a part of the an intergovernmental agreement between Russia and China on the joint construction and operation of a demonstration fast reactor in China. It is a part of a large-scale programme of bilateral cooperation in nuclear industry "for the decades ahead", TVEL said.

The agreement covers construction of nuclear reactors of Russian design, with VVER-1200 reactors at two sites in China - Tianwan and Xudabao. The package of intergovernmental documents and framework contracts for these projects was signed on 8 June 2018, during the visit of Russian President Vladimir Putin to Beijing and his meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping.

Fast neutron reactors (FNRs) are seen as the main reactor technology for China, and CNNC expects the FNR to become predominant by mid-century. The country's research and development on fast neutron reactors started in 1964.

A 65 MWt fast neutron reactor - the Chinese Experimental Fast Reactor (CEFR) - near Beijing achieved criticality in July 2010, and was grid-connected a year later.

Based on this, a 600 MWe design - the CFR-600 - was developed by the China Institute of Atomic Energy. The Xiapu reactor - construction of which started in December 2017 - will be a demonstration of that sodium-cooled pool-type fast reactor design. This will have an output of 1500 MW thermal power and 600 MW electric power. The reactor will use mixed-oxide (MOX) fuel with 100 GWd/t burnup, and will feature two coolant loops producing steam at 480°C. Later fuel will be metal with burnup of 100-120 GWd/t. The reactor will have active and passive shutdown systems and passive decay heat removal.

A commercial-scale unit - the CFR1000 - will have a capacity of 1000-1200 MWe. Subject to a 2020 decision to proceed, construction could start in December 2028, with operation from about 2034. That design will use metal fuel and 120-150 GWd/t burnup.

Researched and written by World Nuclear News