Uranium & Fuel

Russia / Beloyarsk-4 Fast Reactor Set To Fully Run On MOX Fuel In 2022

By Kamen Kraev
12 June 2020

Transition to begin in first half of 2021
Beloyarsk-4 Fast Reactor Set To Fully Run On MOX Fuel In 2022
The Beloyarsk nuclear power station in Russia. Photo courtesy Rosenergoatom.
Russia’s BN-800 fast neutron reactor at Beloyarsk-4 is expected to fully switch to commercial uranium-plutonium mixed oxide (MOX) fuel use in 2022, according to a statement by state nuclear operator Rosenergoatom.

The development, a first for Russia, will be an “important step” towards closing the fuel cycle, the statement said.

Rosenergoatom said transition to MOX fuel is scheduled to begin in the first half of 2021, with loading of one-third of the reactor’s core with the new fuel.

In January 2020, operators loaded the first batch of commercial MOX fuel, consisting of 18 assemblies, at Beloyarsk-4. The plant has been since operating a mix of conventional uranium-based fuel and MOX assemblies.

Rosenergoatom said full transition to MOX fuel operation is expected to be completed in the first half of 2022.

The industrial production of MOX fuel in Russia is part of a federal programme to develop a new generation of nuclear technologies. The MOX fuel project has been led by state nuclear fuel company Tvel. Production began in late 2018 at the Mining and Chemical Combine in Zheleznogorsk, Krasnoyarsk region.

According to Tvel, the BN-800 reactor unit had already used a mix of experimental MOX assemblies and uranium fuel during its initial physical startup testing phase.

MOX fuel contains more than one oxide of fissile material, usually plutonium oxide blended with natural uranium, reprocessed uranium or depleted uranium oxide. MOX fuel can also use weapons-grade plutonium from military sources.

State nuclear corporation Rosatom said earlier that the fuel pellets in the MOX assemblies were made of a mixture of depleted uranium oxides accumulated from enterprises connected to Tvel and plutonium oxides separated during the reprocessing of spent nuclear fuel.

Recycling fissile material in this way is known as closing the nuclear fuel cycle. The overall toxicity, fissile content and volume of the waste produced is reduced while the fissionable residuals are recycled for energy production.

Beloyarsk-4, near Yekaterinburg in central Russia, is an 820-MW fast neutron reactor unit of the BN-800 design. It began commercial operation in 2016.

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