The Novosibirsk Chemical Concentrates Plant - part of Russia's TVEL - has commissioned a new production line for uranium dioxide powder. The new line uses a high-temperature 'dry' process, rather than 'wet' extraction technology currently used at the plant.

The new process uses high-temperature pyrohydrolysis to produce uranium dioxide (UO2) powder that will be formed into pellets and encased in alloy tubes to form fuel rods. Novosibirsk Chemical Concentrates Plant (NCCP) held a ceremony yesterday to mark the commissioning of its new line, attended by Yuri Olenin, president of TVEL, and Victor Tolokonsky, governor of the Novosibirsk region.

The construction schedule for the pilot production line, which has a capacity of 400 tonnes per year, was approved by TVEL executives in August 2007. In 2010, all construction work was completed, equipment installed and the site was officially handed over for commissioning. Investment in the project totalled over 800 million roubles ($26 million). Some 60% of the equipment used in the plant was produced by Russian enterprises, including several TVEL subsidiaries: Mashinostroitelny Zavod (MSZ), Chepetsk Mechanical Plant, Ural Electrochemical Plant and NCCP, as well as their affiliates.

According to TVEL, using the dry conversion process rather than the wet process will substantially reduce the cost of the UO2 powder produced. This is primarily due to maximum automation of the dry conversion process. In addition, the production capacity of the new line is three times that of several existing wet process production lines at the Novosibirsk plant.

TVEL also noted that new production line would have the advantage of reducing the amount of nuclear material feed placed in the process equipment, as well as cutting the amount of work in progress. The line should reduce the impact on the environment and minimize the plant's generation of hazardous waste.

Olenin said that the commissioning of the new line 'is a good platform for economic and human development.' He noted that the funds needed to construct the production line had mainly been sourced from profits generated by NCCP, which had benefitted from a program to improve work efficiency and reduce costs at the plant. Other enterprises within TVEL, Olenin said, would also undergo modernization programs. In addition, he said that a second UO2 powder production line using dry conversion technology will be installed later at NCCP.

The uranium dioxide powder produced by the plant is used to form fuel pellets which are then encased in metal tubes to form fuel rods, which are arranged into a fuel assembly ready for introduction into a reactor.

Source: World Nuclear News