The government of the Sverdlovsk region of Russia has approved the construction of the country's first BN-1200 fast reactor at the Beloyarsk nuclear power plant. The unit will be built to replace the existing smaller BN-600 reactor at the plant, which is scheduled to be shut down by 2020.
Approval for the construction of the fifth unit at Beloyarsk came during a sitting yesterday of the Sverdlovsk government. Vladimir Vlasov, prime minister of the region, said that the decision will make a significant contribution to the sustainable social and economic development of the region. 'The generation of power is very important and timely. Nuclear energy is one of the cheapest forms,' he said.
The government said that the planned 1200 MWe unit will produce around 9 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity annually and help avoid the emission of "millions of tonnes" of carbon dioxide. In addition, it would completely remove the region's need to import fossil fuels. With a 60-year operating life, the reactor is expected to have an annual capacity factor of at least 90%.
The technical design of the BN-1200 is scheduled for completion by 2013, while the manufacture of equipment will start in 2014. Construction of the Beloyarsk unit is set to begin in 2015.
According to the Sverdlovsk department of energy and housing, the BN-1200 reactor would be built to replace the existing smaller BN-600 reactor at unit 3 of the Beloyarsk plant. That unit, which began operating in 1981, is scheduled to be decommissioned by 2020, it said. A BN-800 reactor is currently under construction as the fourth unit at Beloyarsk, which is expected to enter commercial operation in 2015. Beloyarsk 4 had earlier been intended as a replacement for the BN-600, but the project has been delayed by lack of funds since construction start in 2006. The first BN-800 unit is intended to demonstrate the use of mixed-oxide (MOX) fuel at industrial scale - including both reactor-grade and weapons plutonium - and the closed fuel cycle technology.
Rosatom's Science and Technology Council has already approved the BN-1200 reactor for Beloyarsk and in mid-May the company began an environmental impact assessment.
Fast reactors offer the prospect of vastly more efficient use of uranium resources and the ability to burn actinides which are otherwise the long-lived component of high-level nuclear wastes.