An experimental lead-cooled nuclear reactor will be built at the Siberian Chemical Combine (SCC). If successful, the small BREST-300 unit could be the first of a new wave of Russian fast reactors.
The Tomsk region that hosts the SCC signed an agreement with state nuclear company Rosatom during an official visit at the end of September. It specified that a demonstration BREST-300 unit would be built at the site, along with the manufacturing facility for the dense nitride uranium-plutonium fuel that it would need. The cost was put at RUR25 billion ($805 million) for the 300 MWe reactor and RUR17 billion ($54 million) for the fuel plant.
Russia already uses a BN-series fast reactor for power production at Beloyarsk with another under construction and more proposed for several other sites. However, the BREST design is seen as a successor to the BN series and the 300 MWe unit at the SCC could be the forerunner to a 1200 MWe version for wide deployment as a commercial power generation unit. The development program is as part of an Advanced Nuclear Technologies Federal Program 2010-2020 that seeks to exploit fast reactors as a way to be vastly more efficient in the use of uranium while 'burning' radioactive substances that otherwise would have to be disposed of as waste.
BREST refers to bystry reaktor so svintsovym teplonositelem, Russian for 'fast reactor with lead coolant'. Its core would measure about 2.3 metres in diameter by 1.1 metres in height and contain 16 tonnes of fuel. The unit would be refuelled every year with each fuel element spending five years in total within the core. Lead coolant temperature would be around 540°C, giving a high efficiency of 43% - primary heat production of 700 MWt yielding electrical power of 300 MWe. The operational lifespan of the unit could be 60 years. The design is expected to be completed by NIKIET in 2014 for construction between 2016 and 2020.
One of the overall aims of last month's regional agreement is to develop the "scientific, technical and production potential" of the SCC in terms of nuclear technology with the aim of boosting "scientific, economic social and cultural development of the 'closed city'." The improvements at the SCC will lead to additional tax revenue and part of this will be directed to the Tomsk region's budget.
As well as the forthcoming reactor, the SCC already hosts a uranium enrichment plant with capacity of 3 million separative work units per year that is able to handle uranium recovered from reprocessing. This is complimented by a mixed-oxide (MOX) fuel plant, while a uranium conversion plant is also being built and planned for operation after 2016 to meet all Russian demand. Rosatom said it would be investing up to RUR100 billion ($3.2 billion) at the SCC over the next eight years.