State nuclear fuel company Tvel said the 169 fuel assemblies, manufactured at the Mining and Chemical Combine in Zheleznogorsk, eastern Siberia, have been accepted by nuclear operator Rosenergoatom, which has confirmed the consignment is ready for shipment.
Tvel said the refuelling of Beloyarsk-4, near Yekaterinburg in central Russia, is scheduled for January 2021.
The 820-MW BN-800 reactor began commercial operation in October 2016 with a hybrid core, partially loaded with uranium fuel produced by Elemash, Tvel’s fabrication facility in Elektrostal, near Moscow, and partially with experimental MOX fuel bundles manufactured at the Research Institute of Atomic Reactors in Dimitrovgrad, southwest Russia.
In January 2020, operators loaded the first batch of commercial MOX fuel, consisting of 18 assemblies. The plant has been since operating a mix of conventional uranium-based fuel and MOX assemblies.
The move to MOX fuel at Beloyarsk-4, a first for Russia, is an important step towards closing the fuel cycle, Rosenergoatom said recently.
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 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.