Rosatom plans next phase of nuclear and radiation safety

21 September 2015

Rosatom will soon present the Russian government with its report for the federal target program (FTP) for nuclear and radiation safety for 2016-2025, director general Sergey Kirienko told Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev during a meeting on 18 September at Government House. The corporation has completed 108% of the FTP for 2008-2015, and despite a cut in state funding of RUB8.4 billion ($127 million), Kirienko said.

Medvedev-Kirienko September 2015 - 460 (Rosatom)
The meeting between Medvedev (left) and Kirienko (Image: Rosatom)

Rosatom published a transcript of their meeting today.

Medvedev asked Kirienko the size of Rosatom's order book. This is a "particularly important" matter now, he said, with the Russian economy "in a state of turbulence".

Kirienko said that the state nuclear corporation had increased the number of its orders in the last few years by five-and-a-half times – to a total of 30 nuclear power units in 12 countries. "I'm afraid to jinx it, but we are in simultaneous talks in five countries for more than another 10 units," he said.

The value of its orders now totals $300 billion and it continues to grow, he said. Work to construct each new nuclear power unit is worth $5 billion.

Rosatom's talks with partners and potential partners during the International Atomic Energy Agency's General Conference in Vienna last week showed that interest in Russian nuclear technology "isn't simply being preserved, it's increasing," he said. "It may sound immodest, but the truth is that Rosatom is today's number one. In recent years, we haven't lost a single tender. Everywhere there has been an open tender, we've won it."

The importance of its contracts extends beyond the seven to 10 years required to build new reactors for a customer, he said, since Rosatom guarantees its services for the 60 years a unit will be in operation. In practice, that period will be as long as 100 years, he added. Other work includes the supply of nuclear fuel and, eventually, the decommissioning of a unit and managing its used fuel.

Medvedev asked whether the government should adopt new policy decisions to help support Rosatom with its work. Kirienko said: "No special solutions are required at the moment. We have an ongoing program of nuclear energy development. We have implemented it and we are opening up opportunities for the industry. Our starting point was being able to produce one set of equipment a year, now we can produce up to seven using our national capacity. But what is important, is that we maintain competition in domestic markets, or in some cases create it, because this allows us to keep prices down."

A decision the corporation needs the government to focus on in the near future is to extend the FTP on nuclear and radiation safety, Kirienko said. "The Russian nuclear industry will next week be celebrating its 70th anniversary and in that time it has accumulated quite a lot of baggage," he said, mainly from the country's military legacy.

Kirienko stressed the importance of the introduction of a dry storage facility for used nuclear fuel at the Mining and Chemical Combine (MCC) in Krasnoyarsk. He told Medvedev that, to date, almost 30,000 used fuel assemblies have been moved from Russia's nuclear power plants, "dramatically increasing the safety and reliability of their storage". He added: “We have rehabilitated 2.7 million square meters of contaminated areas, which is one million more than had been planned by the FTP."

Rosatom has "completely freed" the Russian Far East of its used nuclear fuel. Apart from the Bilibino plant, in the Chukotka region, "there are no nuclear power plants there, where we have undertaken on behalf of the government the task of removing and reprocessing the used fuel of nuclear submarines as and when they are transferred from the Ministry of Defence," he said. The task of reprocessing fuel from the 201 vessels transferred to its responsibility to date is 97% complete, he added.

In addition it has, in collaboration with the Ministry of Defence, the Ministry of Transport, among others, recovered the 992 radioisotope generators from the Northern Sea Route. Twelve such generators are now in operation in that region.

Kirienko outlined the cost reductions Rosatom has achieved with its management of used nuclear fuel. It has reduced the cost of removing used fuel from nuclear power plants by three times, for example. Next week, he added, it will for the first time test Russian-produced mixed-oxide (MOX) fuel. He said that an agreement between Russia and the USA on the disposal of excess plutonium "is not needed".

"Russia and the USA have each launched the construction of MOX plants. The Americans have already spent $7.7 billion and eight years on building theirs, but at the start of [last week] the US Congress announced that, with no end in sight, they are halting construction. We also have a MOX facility, which we built in two-and-a-half years for RUB9 billion ($136 million). The plant is in operation."

Kirienko was referring to the US Department of Energy project at the Savannah River site in South Carolina that was designed to take plutonium no longer needed for nuclear weapons and turn it into fuel for commercial nuclear reactors.

The director general of MCC told World Nuclear News on 10 September that the enterprise's MOX fuel fabrication facility will increase its annual production of fuel assemblies from 20 this year to 400 in 2017. These will be the first nuclear fuel assemblies for the BN-800 fast neutron reactor - unit 4 at the Beloyarsk nuclear power plant in the Sverdlovsk district.

A centralized 'dry' interim storage facility for used nuclear fuel from Russia's RBMK-1000 reactors has been in operation at the MCC site since February 2012.

This initial stage of the facility will be used for storing 8129 tonnes of RBMK fuel from the three power plants in the country using that kind of reactor: Leningrad, Kursk and Smolensk. The used fuel from these plants is currently stored in on-site water-filled pools, but these are reaching full-capacity.

Later, used VVER-1000 fuel from reactors at the Balakovo, Kalinin, Novovoronezh and Rostov plants will also be stored at the facility. Such fuel has already been sent to Zheleznogorsk for storage in water pools. The facility - measuring some 270 metres in length, 35 metres wide and 40 metres high - will ultimately hold 38,000 tonnes of used RBMK and VVER fuel.

Full-scale commissioning of the dry storage complex at MCC is scheduled for this year, leading to the storage of VVER-1000 used fuel, Gavrilov said, adding that in the future, the complex could welcome foreign customers.

Researched and written
by World Nuclear News