The TVEL Fuel Company of Russia’s Rosatom State Atomic Energy Corporation has started batch production of MOX nuclear fuel assemblies for BN-800 Fast Neutron Reactor at their Mining and Chemical Combine in Zheleznogorsk of Siberia.
Earlier the new nuclear fuel produced with a mix of oxides of depleted uranium and oxides of plutonium extracted during reprocessing of spent nuclear fuel, successfully passed acceptance inspection by the concerned authority.
‘The start of MOX fuel production for BN-800 is an important milestone for solving the strategic task of establishing the closed nuclear fuel cycle. Involvement of the large stock of depleted uranium and bred plutonium into the fuel cycle would enable expansion of the resource base of the nuclear power industry and reduction of natural uranium consumption,’ said Konstantin Vergazov, Senior Vice President of TVEL for R&D, technology and quality.
Fast Neutron Reactors fueled by mixed oxides of uranium and plutonium would breed enough plutonium for own needs and producing a certain amount of fuel for other reactors. Recycling of spent nuclear fuel and fabrication of new bundles with the uranium and plutonium mixture is estimated to ramp up approximately hundred-fold the volume of electric power, which could potentially be generated using natural uranium resources.
Contents of U-238 isotope in natural uranium deposits is about 99.3%, while contents of uranium U-235 (it is used for initiation of a controlled fission chain reaction) is just 0.7%. Currently, thermal neutron reactors which is the base of contemporary nuclear power industry consume about 1% of the extracted natural uranium, the rest 99% is forwarded to temporary storage, or disposed of as the radioactive waste.
Fourth unit of Russia’s Beloyarsk NPP with BN-800 Fast Neutron Reactor went in to commercial operations in 2016.
TVEL Fuel Company of Rusatom incorporates enterprises for the fabrication of nuclear fuel, conversion and enrichment of uranium, production of gas centrifuges, as well as research and design organizations. It is the only supplier of nuclear fuel for Russian nuclear power plants. TVEL provides nuclear fuel for 72 power reactors in 14 countries, research reactors in eight countries, as well as transport reactors of the Russian nuclear fleet. Every sixth power reactor in the world operates on fuel manufactured by TVEL (www.tvel.ru)