TVEL unit launches CFR-600 fuel production site

03 March 2021

Elemash Machine-building plant has launched a production site for the fabrication of fuel for China's flagship fast neutron reactor, the CFR-600. A subsidiary of Russian nuclear fuel manufacturer TVEL, Moscow-based Elemash has modernised an entire shop floor for fast reactors, and says 'dummy' fuel bundles for the CFR-600 are already being manufactured for testing.

The Elemash shop floor where CFR-600 fuel is being manufactured (Image: TVEL)

China National Nuclear Corporation (CNNC) announced in December that construction work had started on the second CFR-600 sodium-cooled pool-type fast-neutron nuclear reactor. Located in Xiapu County, in China's Fujian province, the Xiapu fast reactor demonstration project is part of China's plan to achieve a closed nuclear fuel cycle. 

Xiapu 1 is expected to be grid connected in 2023. The reactors will be 1500 MWt, 600 MWe, with 41% thermal efficiency, using MOX fuel with 100 GWd/t burn-up, and with two sodium coolant loops producing steam at 480°C. Later fuel will be metal with burn-up 100-120 GWd/t. Breeding ratio is about 1.1, design operational lifetime 40 years. The design has active and passive shutdown systems and passive decay heat removal.

The new Elemash production site is part of a contract signed by TVEL and CNLY, a subsidiary of CNNC, for supply of uranium fuel for the CFR-600 reactor, including start-up loading, as well as refuelling for the first seven years of the unit's operation. The supply of fuel for the CFR-600 is scheduled to start in 2023.

"The Russian nuclear industry has a unique 40-year-long experience in fast reactor operation and the production of fuel for such installations," TVEL President Natalia Nikipelova said today. Noting that TVEL had fully met its obligations within Russian-Chinese cooperation in the development of fast reactor technologies, she said "these are unique projects" since a foreign-designed fuel is being produced in Russia. "Since 2010, the first Chinese fast breeder reactor CEFR has been operating on fuel manufactured at Elemash plant, and to provide the supply of the CFR-600 fuel, a team of Elemash and TVEL specialists has successfully completed a complex high-tech project to modernise the fabrication facility," she said.

The new equipment at the Elemash site will be used to produce fuel for both China's CFR-600 and CEFR fast reactors, as well as for the Russian BN-600 reactor of the Beloyarsk nuclear power plant. Production of BN-600 fuel will start on the new shop floor "in the near future", TVEL said.

The CFR-600 fuel contract was signed in line with an intergovernmental agreement between China and Russia 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 the nuclear industry "for decades ahead", TVEL said. In particular, the agreement covers the construction of VVER-1200 nuclear power units at two sites in China - Tianwan and Xudabao. The package of intergovernmental documents and framework contracts for these projects was signed in 2018, during the visit of Russian President Vladimir Putin to Beijing and his meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping.

In addition to manufacturing enriched uranium fuel, TVEL also develops technologies for the fabrication of uranium-plutonium fuel for fast reactors from secondary products of the nuclear fuel cycle. In particular, at the Mining and Chemical Combine in Zheleznogorsk, in the Krasnoyarsk region of Russia, it has established the production of mixed-oxide (MOX) fuel, which is already being supplied to the BN-800 reactor at Beloyarsk NPP. At the site of the Siberian Chemical Combine in Seversk, in the Tomsk region, a facility for the fabrication of nitride uranium-plutonium fuel (MNUP-fuel) for the BREST-OD-300 fast neutron reactor is under construction.

Researched and written by World Nuclear News