Russia's Mining and Chemical Combine (MCC) said today that its mixed-oxide (MOX) fuel fabrication facility has completed tests on putting together the first nuclear fuel assemblies for the BN-800 fast neutron reactor, using uranium pellets. The BN-800 is unit 4 at the Beloyarsk nuclear power plant in the Sverdlovsk district. MCC is a subsidiary of ROSATOM.
The MOX production line - located in a mine 200 meters underground at MCC's Zheleznogorsk site - became fully operational at the end of last year. The facility was built as part of Russia's 'Proryv', or Breakthrough, project to enable a closed nuclear fuel cycle. The ultimate aim is to eliminate production of radioactive waste from nuclear power generation. Russia has no commercial reactors using MOX fuel, but pellets of the fuel will enter serial production for use at the BN-800 reactor. MOX is a mixture of plutonium and uranium dioxides.
"Taking into account the 30 kg batch of MOX fuel pellets produced in September 2014 met technical specification requirements, this further proves the competence of the new facility and the draft technical solutions that were found. It also completes an important stage ahead of the industrial production of MOX fuel assemblies," MCC said.
Early this month, the BN-800 reactor was for the second time brought to the minimum controlled power level, moving it a step closer to starting commercial operation. It was first brought to minimum controlled power on 27 June 2014, with the start of operation planned for the end of that year. But in December, Russian nuclear power plant operator Rosenergoatom announced that nuclear fuel for the unit would first be developed further. The unit is now expected to start operations before the end of this year.
MCC general director Pyotr Gavrilov said in the company statement today he was glad the company had met Sergey Kirienko's expectations when the ROSATOM chief gave the go-ahead for the creation of the new facility.
The capacity of 789 MWe Beloyarsk 4 exceeds that of the world's second most powerful fast reactor - the 560 MWe BN-600 at Beloyarsk 3.