Russia celebrated two stand-out achievements for the world's nuclear industry today - the launch of the most powerful fast reactor and the 60th anniversary of the first civilian nuclear power plant.
Rosenergoatom engineers brought to criticality Beloyarsk 4 - a 789 MWe fast-neutron reactor of the BN-800 design - while its parent Rosatom honoured the operators who commissioned the 5 MWe Obinsk reactor on the same day in 1954.
The startup of the Obninsk reactor "was a step into the future" and its value cannot be overstated," said Alexander Kharichev, Rosatom head of department on work with the regions.
Kharichev spoke during the anniversary celebrations held in Obninsk. Guests at the event included representatives from closed administrative-territorial formations, or ZATO according to their Russian acronym, of which Obninsk was one. The city was founded in 1946 following a decree by Josef Stalin that a secret laboratory to carry out research in nuclear physics should be built on the left bank of the Protva River.
Alexey Golubev, chairman of the association of ZATO, said there was "an unbreakable historical link" between the new generation of nuclear scientists and those who were at the start of the country's nuclear power industry. Golubev spoke of the economic and social sacrifices residents of the closed cities had had to make. "The launch of the first nuclear power plant was a significant event for all ZATO residents, but we are well aware of the cost of this technological breakthrough," he said.
A prototype design using a graphite moderator and water coolant, the Obninsk reactor was a forerunner of the RBMK, or high power channel-type reactor. It remained active until 29 April, 2002, when it was finally shut down.
Beloyarsk 4 is fuelled by a mix of uranium and plutonium oxides arranged to produce new fuel material as it burns. Its capacity exceeds that of the world's second most powerful fast reactor - 560 Mwe Beloyarsk 3. Russia plans to build a BN-1200 fast reactor power unit at Beloyarsk to start up by 2020.
Rosenergoatom said on 23 June that it was preparing for first criticality of its BN-800 and Russian news agency RIA Novosti reported that controlled nuclear fission had been started on 27 June.