Closed nuclear fuel cycle will allow recycling of spent fuel for an infinite resource base 

The success of the ongoing experiments on closing the nuclear fuel cycle is of utmost importance to the nuclear industry that is faced with the serious challenge of stopping the accumulation of spent fuel and ensuring the recycling of fissionable materials. 

The second day of Atomexpo 2022 at Sochi, Russia, on November 22 featured a roundtable discussion on “Closed Nuclear Fuel Cycle – New Opportunities and Products”. Officials from leading global power generators, industrial companies and scientific organisations participated in the roundtable which discussed developments in closing the nuclear fuel cycle (NFC) from the perspective of nuclear reprocessing and treatment of radioactive waste.

In his welcome address, Rosatom’s Director (Lifecycle Management of NFC) Vladislav Korogodin said that closing the NFC offers a solution to the problems of accumulation of spent fuel and the recycling of fissionable materials. 

Nobuo Tanaka, Chair of the Steering Committee, Innovation for Cool Earth Forum (ICEF), noted in his speech that developing a sustainable model for closing the NFC has important sociopolitical implications in addition to technological significance. According to Tanaka, a key role in developing such a model lies with political leaders as exemplified by the former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. 

Igor Gusakov-Stanyukovich, who is Director for Spent Nuclear Fuel (SNF) and Sustainable Nuclear Fuel Cycle (NFC), at Rosatom subsidiary Tenex said a sustainable NFC builds upon existing Russian infrastructure of SNF and radioactive waste (RW) handling by enhancing it with a number of innovative solutions, including high level waste fractionation, minor actinide transmutation, efficient systems for SNF and RW transport, among others.  

“In combination, these solutions help reduce the amount of waste that is sent for disposal”, Gusakov-Stanyukovich said.  

Rosatom fuel arm TVEL’s Senior Vice-President (R&D), Alexander Ugryumov, touched on the major developments in Russia, including the ongoing work on fast neutron reactors, and on closed nuclear fuel cycle technologies, which are based on fabrication of fresh uranium-plutonium fuel from reprocessed irradiated fuel.    

Ugryumov noted that Rosatom has extensive experience in operating experimental and commercial fast-neutron reactors, while existing plans call for developing a dual-component nuclear power industry, which operates both thermal and fast-neutron reactors in parallel, and creates conditions for using byproducts, such as depleted uranium and materials generated during irradiated fuel reprocessing, in the nuclear fuel cycle. 

This Rosatom strategy would help accomplish several highly important tasks. First, it would exponentially boost the feedstock for nuclear power plants. Second, it would enable recycling of spent nuclear fuel instead of storage. Moreover, as part of the nuclear fuel cycle this would allow utilising the accumulated ground stocks of depleted uranium hexafluoride and plutonium for production of fresh fuel.    

TVEL has already started construction of a 300 MW nuclear power unit equipped with the BREST-OD-300 fast neutron reactor at the Siberian Chemical Combine in Seversk.    

Both the fuel fabrication and the reactor units form part of the Pilot Demonstration Energy Complex (PDEC) being built at the Siberian Chemical Plant by TVEL. The PDEC is underway as part of the strategic “Proryv” (‘Breakthrough’ in Russian) project. It will include three linked facilities, making up a closed nuclear fuel cycle at one site — the fuel fabrication/re-fabrication unit, the 300 MW nuclear power plant with the fast neutron BREST-OD-300 reactor, and the unit for spent fuel reprocessing.   

According to TVEL, “after reprocessing, the irradiated fuel from the reactor will be sent for refabrication (that is, reproduction into fresh fuel), thereby giving this system the means to gradually become practically autonomous and independent of external resources supplies”.    

TVEL announced last year it has developed a fuel rod design based on nitride uranium-plutonium (MNUP) fuel for the BREST-OD-300 fast neutron reactor,     

The world’s most powerful fast neutron reactor called the BN-800, currently operating at unit 4 of the Beloyarsk NPP in Russia, was loaded last year with the first serial batch of MOX fuel made of depleted uranium and plutonium oxides. The BN-800 fast neutron reactor is designed to use MOX fuel as one of the stages in the development of a closed nuclear fuel cycle.   

According to TVEL “distinct from traditional nuclear fuel with enriched uranium, MOX fuel pellets are based on the mix of nuclear fuel cycle derivatives, such as oxide of plutonium bred in commercial reactors, and oxide of depleted uranium which is derived by defluorination of depleted uranium hexafluoride (UF6)”.   

Experts at the roundtable opined that technologies to close the NFC will expand the resource pool of nuclear energy almost indefinitely and will help substantially reduce volumes of spent nuclear fuel and nuclear waste in line with Sustainable Development Goals. Moreover, the Russian experience can lay the foundations for wide-ranging international cooperation and transformation of the global nuclear industry. 

The roundtable highlighted that development of a global dual-component nuclear power industry is a potential environmentally optimal solution for countries developing nuclear power generation. With a sustainable NFC, the nuclear power industry’s resource base will practically become inexhaustible thanks to the infinite reprocessing of nuclear fuel. At the same time, future generations will be spared the problem of accumulating spent nuclear fuel. 

TVEL inks contract to supply nuclear fuel components for Egypt’s second research reactor 

Among the various agreements signed at the Atomexpo-2022 in Sochi, Russia, during November 21-22, was one between the Russian state atomic energy corporation Rosatom’s fuel arm TVEL and the Egyptian Atomic Energy Agency (EAEA) for supplies of low-enriched fuel components to Egypt. 

A Rosatom release said the agreement signed between TVEL subsidiary Novosibirsk Chemical Concentrates Plant and the EAEA is a follow-up to the earlier long-term contract for supply of nuclear fuel components for the ETRR-2 reactor in Egypt.  

“The product range includes uranium components as well as products made of aluminum alloy and aluminum powder. The shipment will be provided in 2023. Also, by the end of 2022, another batch will be supplied to Egypt in compliance with the previously signed contractual documents”, the statement said. 

ETRR-2, or the Experimental Training Research Reactor Number two, is a research reactor supplied by the Argentine company Investigacion Aplicada (INVAP) in 1992. The reactor is owned and operated by the EAEA at the Nuclear Research Center in Inshas. It is used for research in particle physics and material studies, as well as for production of radioisotopes. 

“The prospects of TVEL’s business development in Egypt also embrace supply of nuclear fuel to all four power units of the 4800 MWe El Dabaa nuclear power plant for the entire operation period. The fuel contract came into force in 2017”, the statement added.  

Construction started earlier this year of Egypt’s first nuclear power plant (NPP) at El Dabaa, being built with the assistance of Rosatom. Egypt and Russia signed an intergovernmental agreement in 2015 under which Rosatom will help build and part-finance the first Egyptian NPP to be owned by the Egyptian Nuclear Power Plant Authority (NPPA). 

The El Dabaa NPP, to be located on Egypt’s Mediterranean coast about 130 km northwest of the capital, Cairo, will have four Russian-designed VVER-1200 pressurised water reactors of 1,200 MW capacity each, making Egypt the only country in the region to have a state-of-the-art Generation III+ reactor.    

The Egyptian nuclear regulator ENRRA issued a permit for the construction of the El Dabaa unit 1 on June 29, 2022.   

Although the Egyptian nuclear power program was started in 1954, and its first research reactor ETRR-1 was acquired from the erstwhile Soviet Union in 1958, it is only now that work has started on building the country’s first nuclear power plant.   

The El-Dabaa NPP is being constructed under a package of contracts which came into force in December 2017. As per the contract, Rosatom will not only construct the NPP but will also supply nuclear fuel for its whole life cycle, as well as provide assistance to the Egyptian partners in the training of personnel and in support of operations and service during the first 10 years of its operation. Under a separate agreement, Rosatom will build a special storage and will supply containers for storing spent nuclear fuel. 

A successful Atomexpo takes place at a time of renaissance of nuclear energy globally 

The 12th edition of Atomexpo — the global nuclear industry’s leading exhibition-cum-business platform organised by the Russian state atomic energy corporation Rosatom – which took place this year after a two-year break caused by Covid-19, was a major success both in terms of the number of visitors and business deals signed.  

Atomexpo 2022 International Forum, held in the Russian coastal city of Sochi on 21–22 November, was attended by over 3,000 people, including businesspersons, government agencies, as well as international organisations from Russia and 65 other countries. 

With nuclear energy currently in revival mode around the world, the Atomexpo 2022 motto was “Nuclear Spring: Creating a Sustainable Future”. The backdrop of the current “nuclear renaissance” worldwide is the ongoing energy crisis resulting from fossil fuel price increases, supply instability, as well as the logistics and technological chain disruptions. 

At the opening plenary session, political and industry leaders from various countries discussed the implications of the energy market crisis and agreed that nuclear power can be harnessed to optimally mitigate the serious energy problems confronting global economies and drive development for decades to come. 

The plenary session was attended by Hungary’s Foreign Affairs and Trade Minister Péter Szijjártó, Brazil’s ENBPar Corporation CEO Ney Zanella dos Santos, Belarusian Energy Minister Viktor Karankevich, Turkish Deputy Minister of Energy and Natural Resources Alparslan Bayraktar, Bangladesh’s Science and Technology Minister Yeafesh Osman and Rosatom Director General Alexey Likhachev. 

Last month, the German federal cabinet approved a bill proposed by Chancellor Olaf Scholz to extend the operation of the country’s last three operating nuclear reactors until mid-April 2023. Japan, which had halted the development of nuclear power after the 2011 Fukushima accident, now plans to revive its nuclear energy sector and is considering building new nuclear power units.  

Earlier this year, South Korea reversed the decision of its previous leadership to close the country’s nuclear power plants. France and Britain intend to increase the respective share of nuclear power generation in their energy mix by 22 and 24 gigawatts, while the US is extending the life of its nuclear power plants (NPPs). 

At the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP27) held in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, last month, the global nuclear industry, as well as the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) organised various initiatives to highlight the centrality of nuclear energy in tackling the climate crisis. 

The plenary session on the second day of Atomexpo was devoted to the topic of small modular reactor (SMR)-equipped nuclear power plants (NPPs). The meeting was attended by IAEA Deputy Director General Mikhail Chudakov, Rosatom First Deputy Director General for International Business Development, Kirill Komarov, Myanmar’s Minister of Electric Power Thaung Han, Kyrgyz Energy Minister Taalaibek Ibraev and Russia’s Chukotka Autonomous District Governor Roman Kopin, among others. 

Russia already operates a series of SMRs that power its nuclear icebreakers, as well as the world’s first floating nuclear power plant named Akademik Lomonosov. Russian officials at the plenary said that land based SMRs too would soon be built in the country. 

Komarov said Rosatom would offer to construct low-power SMR plants for foreign customers, which could include countries with territories far from centralized energy supplies, island states, countries with low demand for electricity, or large industrial facilities. The company has the capacity to undertake serial construction of small reactor plants, Komarov said, adding that the fuel component in the kilowatt cost of small NPPs does not exceed 3–5 percent, making prices predictable for decades to come. 

Atomexpo’s business programme also featured a discussion on financing the transition to green energy. Participants spoke about the rapid development of renewable energy sources and their higher share in the energy balance of several countries, considering the battle against climate change, and their ability to help avoid the energy crisis. 

Another important topic of discussion at the forum was electric mobility. Rosatom is building a gigafactory in Kaliningrad to produce lithium-ion batteries, which will be launched in mid-2025. It is expected to equip up to 50,000 electric vehicles per year. Three more similar factories with the same capacity are in the pipeline. The first factory’s future products have already been allocated among potential consumers. 

Over the two days of the forum, the participants signed around 50 business deals, while multiple agreements were concluded with Russia’s foreign partners.  

A Rosatom release said that the company signed a cooperation agreement with the Republic of Burundi to assess the prospects for nuclear generation in the African nation. A similar document was signed with Nicaragua. A Rosatom memorandum with Zimbabwe covers education and training of personnel in Zimbabwe’s nuclear energy sector, the statement said. 

Besides, several agreements were signed with Belarus, specifically regarding the supply of Russian medical equipment for cancer treatment. Rosatom will also cooperate with Uzbekistan in the medical industry, for instance, by developing technologies to obtain radionuclides for nuclear medicine.  

“An agreement was also signed on the development of technical specifications to substantiate the construction of a low-power NPP in Kyrgyzstan”, the statement added. 

The Rosatom Director General said at the forum that the company’s portfolio over the next 20-30 years will see the largest growth among newcomers to the “nuclear club” such as Bangladesh, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Turkey, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia, which are working to transition to low-carbon sources, as well as amongst various African countries that have concluded their initial agreements with Rosatom and are already outlining future projects.

‘Blue economy is the economy of the future’  

The “blue economy”, or ocean economy based on the optimal utilisation of all maritime-related resources, is the economy of the future, was the consensus among the participants at a roundtable on “Blue Economy: Government, Business, and Science for a Sustainable Future” organised at the Atomexpo 2022 International Forum held last week. 

Atomexpo is the global nuclear nuclear industry’s leading exhibition-cum-business platform organised by the Russian state atomic energy corporation Rosatom. The 12th edition of Atomexpo took place over November 21-22 at the coastal city of Sochi, Russia. 

Experts from countries with coastlines like India, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Russia participated in the roundtable to discuss the outlook and challenges for the development of the ocean economy. 

Underlining the global, cross-border nature of the blue economy, the experts at the roundtable described it as the economy of the future that has the unique opportunity to become a platform for cooperation between the government, business, and science. 

Involving the optimal utilisation of all sectors of the maritime domains – such as living and non-living resources, tourism and ocean energy — for the sustainable development of coastal areas, the blue economy includes traditional and emerging industries like shipping, port infrastructure, shipbuilding and ship repair, marine construction and dredging, offshore oil and gas production, marine R&D and education, fishing and seafood processing, among others.  

The assets of the world’s oceans are estimated to be worth $25 trillion. The blue economy supports the lives of more than 3 billion people and is the 7th largest economy in the world which is growing annually and will reach $3 trillion by 2030. 

At the roundtable, issues of international cooperation in the blue economy, environmental management of marine areas, and financing as well as digital aspects of water projects were elaborated upon by Natalia Stapran, Director of Multilateral Economic Cooperation and Special Projects in Russia’s Ministry of Economic Development, and Nikolai Shabalin, the Executive Director of Lomonosov Moscow State University Marine Research Center. 

Mohamed Ahmed Said, Professor of Physical Oceanography at Egypt’s National Institute of Oceanography and Fisheries spoke about the experience of Egypt and other African countries in the area of the blue economy. 

“Maintaining a balance between economic development and the sustainability of marine ecosystems is extremely important when investing in projects of the blue economy such as sustainable fishing, aquaculture, marine renewable energy sources, and marine transport”, Said noted.  

Rudra Prasad Pradhan, who is an Associate Professor at the Birla Institute of Technology and Science in India elaborated on the Indian experience as one of the pioneers in the development of the blue economy. 

“The Indian Ocean is spread over 70 million sq km. It is the sea space connecting 40 countries, and a major oil supply and trade lane. The ocean is called ‘Sagar’ in Hindi and Prime Minister Narendra Modi defines SAGAR as Security and Growth for all”, Pradhan said.  

“Situated right in the middle of the Indian Ocean, India looks at seas and oceans as a critical maritime platform for sharing experience and collective economic growth”, he added.  

The Indian government is currently putting the finishing touches to its Blue Economy Policy which is expected to be released within two months.   

Raj Jit Singh Wallia, the Deputy Chief Financial Officer of UAE-based logistics multinational DP World, shared his company’s experience on the subject. “The priorities of DP World, which contributes a lot in the development of the ‘blue economy’, include safeguarding ocean health, preventing pollution, and protecting biodiversity”, Wallia said. 

Rosatom’s Director of Business Development, Yekaterina Lyakhova, said the blue economy is of great importance for the company especially in the development of the Arctic region.  

“It is important to find a balance between maximizing economic benefits and preserving the biosphere of the region. Besides, it is necessary to find mechanisms to team up science, government, and business to develop a model of lean economic development not only in the Arctic, but also in other maritime spaces”, Lyakhova said.  

Rosatom operates nuclear powered icebreakers that help keep the Northern Sea Route (NSR) in the Arctic waters open for navigation throughout the year. In addition, Rosatom is equipping the NSR facilities, building port infrastructure, and developing transit. The NSR via the Arctic is the shortest route between the East Asian and Western European ports.   

Rosatom has signed a cooperation agreement with the Marine Research Center of Lomonosov Moscow State University to continue comprehensive research and monitoring of above-water and underwater environmental safety in the waters of Russia’s Arctic zone in 2022-2023. The previous study based on data from 50 monitoring stations in the waters of the NSR has concluded that commercial shipping currently has no significant impact on marine ecosystems in the Arctic. 

‘Nuclear Spring’ – harbinger of a sustainable future 

With nuclear energy currently in a revival mode around the world, the theme of this year’s Atomexpo — the global nuclear industry’s leading exhibition-cum-business platform organised by the Russian state atomic energy corporation Rosatom — was “Atomic Spring: Creating a Sustainable Future”. 

The 12th Atomexpo International Forum was held during November 21-22 at the Russian seaside city of Sochi. This year, the forum was attended by over 2,500 people from 65 countries.   

The context of the current “nuclear renaissance” worldwide is the ongoing energy crisis resulting from fossil fuel price increases, supply instability, as well as the logistics and technological chain disruptions. 

Last month, the German federal cabinet approved a bill proposed by Chancellor Olaf Scholz to extend the operation of the country’s last three operating nuclear reactors until mid-April 2023. Japan, which had halted the development of nuclear power after the 2011 Fukushima accident, now plans to revive its nuclear energy sector and is considering building new nuclear power units.  

Among other recent policy initiatives favouring nuclear energy, South Korea has reversed the decision of its previous leadership to close the country’s nuclear power plants. France and Britain intend to increase the respective share of nuclear power generation in their energy mix by 22 and 24 gigawatts (GW), while the US is extending the life of its nuclear power plants (NPPs). 

At the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP27) held in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, earlier this month, the global nuclear industry, as well as the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) organised various initiatives to highlight nuclear energy as central to tackling the climate crisis.  

COP 27 witnessed several events dedicated to the role of nuclear energy and nuclear technologies in helping countries and regions overcome challenges in sustainable development. The COP 26 summit in Glasgow, UK, last year was a landmark in cementing the integral role of nuclear energy in meeting the world’s decarbonisation goals.   

An Atomexpo plenary session at Sochi involving political and industry leaders from various countries discussed the implications of the current crisis in the energy market and concluded that nuclear power can be harnessed to optimally mitigate the serious energy problems confronting global economies and drive development for decades to come. 

The plenary session was attended by Hungary’s Foreign Affairs and Trade Minister Péter Szijjártó, Brazil’s ENBPar Corporation CEO Ney Zanella dos Santos, Belarusian Energy Minister Viktor Karankevich, Turkish Deputy Minister of Energy and Natural Resources Alparslan Bayraktar, Bangladesh’s Science and Technology Minister Yeafesh Osman, and Rosatom Director General (DG) Alexey Likhachev. 

Likhachev spoke about Rosatom projects for the development of nuclear generation in Russia and in various countries around the world. The company is currently building 23 power units abroad in eight countries and has already signed intergovernmental agreements on 34 nuclear reactors.  

According to Likhachev, over the next 20-30 years, Rosatom’s portfolio will see the largest growth among new member countries of the “nuclear club” such as Bangladesh, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Turkey, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia, that are working to transition to low-carbon sources, as well as amongst various African countries that have concluded their initial agreements with Rosatom and are already outlining future projects. 

Hungary’s Foreign Affairs and Trade Minister, Péter Szijjártó, said his country is building a pragmatic and well-thought-out energy strategy that will not only allow it to develop its nuclear industry and gain more autonomy on energy prices, but also reduce its carbon footprint. 

Brazil’s ENBPar Corporation CEO Ney Zanella dos Santos explained that the country is endowed with a lot of sun and wind and intends to further develop these two forms of renewable energy. He also said that about 90 percent of the country’s energy comes from hydroelectric power plants and stressed that the conditions were also favourable for the development of alternative energy sources.  

“Nuclear energy is another resource that will allow us to expand our horizons”, the CEO said, adding that there are good prospects for the widespread use of small modular nuclear reactors in remote areas of Brazil. He also told the plenary about the Brazilian nuclear plant at Angra, two units of which are already in operation, while the under construction third unit is expected to be commissioned in 2027. Brazil proposes to build a new nuclear plant in the north of the country and intends to add about 10 GW of nuclear capacity over the next 30 years, the Brazilian added.  

Belarusian Energy Minister Viktor Karankevich said in his speech that the country already has an operating nuclear plant built with Rosatom assistance which has generated 9.6 billion kilowatt hours (kWh) of electricity since its commissioning. 

“Expected to be launched soon, the second unit of the Belarusian NPP will significantly reduce CO2 emissions”, Karankevich said, adding that “further cooperation with Rosatom in areas such as scientific and technical support for the operation of nuclear power plants, the handling of spent nuclear fuel, and the training of personnel for nuclear energy is expected to expand.” 

Making a forecast about the nuclear industry, the Rosatom DG said that along with the development of Generation 3+ power units, the next 10-15 years will also see the development of small modular reactor technology. 

“Then, the transition to a dual-component nuclear power system will be resolved by the mid-2050s with the simultaneous operation of thermal and fast reactors with a closed nuclear fuel cycle”, Likhachev said.  

“As for the long-term, that is 50 years or more, we will rely on thermonuclear fusion technologies. I am sure that humanity will gain a unique source of energy, a ‘man-made sun’, which will contribute to sustainable economic development and improve the quality of life for millions of people”, he added.  

Rosatom is developing a range of new fuel technologies that include work on fast neutron reactors, and on the closed nuclear fuel cycle, which is based on fabrication of fresh uranium-plutonium fuel from reprocessed irradiated fuel.    

The company has already started construction of a 300 MW nuclear power unit equipped with the BREST-OD-300 fast neutron reactor at the Siberian Chemical Combine in Seversk.    

Both the fuel fabrication and the reactor units form part of the Pilot Demonstration Energy Complex (PDEC) being built at the Siberian Chemical Plant by Rosatom’s fuel arm TVEL. The PDEC construction is part of the strategic “Proryv” (‘Breakthrough’ in Russian) project. It will include three linked facilities, making up a closed nuclear fuel cycle at one site — the fuel fabrication/re-fabrication unit, the 300 MW nuclear power plant with the fast neutron BREST-OD-300 reactor, and the unit for spent fuel reprocessing.   

According to TVEL, “after reprocessing, the irradiated fuel from the reactor will be sent for refabrication (that is, reproduction into fresh fuel), thereby giving this system the means to gradually become practically autonomous and independent of external resources supplies”.  The nuclear power industry’s resource base will practically become inexhaustible thanks to the infinite reprocessing of nuclear fuel. At the same time, future generations will be spared the problem of accumulating spent nuclear fuel.   

Although commercially viable nuclear fusion power is still some distance away, there are various ongoing experiments seeking to overcome the formidable challenges. The most ambitious among these is the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER) project involving 35 countries. The ITER machine, assembly of which got underway in Cadarache, France, in July 2020, is designed to replicate the fusion power of the Sun to enable generation of clean unlimited energy, and the first ultra-hot plasma is expected to be generated in late 2025. 

In December 2020, South Korea announced that its magnetic fusion device called the Korea Superconducting Tokamak Advanced Research (KSTAR) set a record by reaching a temperature of over 100 million degrees Celsius for a period of 20 seconds. In comparative terms, KSTAR was able to attain 6.6 times the temperature of the Sun, which radiates at a temperature of only 15 million degrees Celsius. KSTAR has set a target to increase the plasma operation performance to 300 seconds by the year 2025.  

Tokamak (derived from the Russian words for “toroidal magnetic confinement”) devices, originally developed in Russia, are used to recreate fusion reactions that occur in the Sun. As per the Institute for Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety, there are about 250 tokamak devices around the world. 

Also in December 2020, the China National Nuclear Corporation announced that it had switched on its “artificial Sun”, which managed to operate at 150 million degrees Celsius. 

New fuel technologies would raise efficiency of VVER units like Kudankulam in India 

TVEL, the fuel arm of the Russian state atomic energy corporation Rosatom, is developing a series of new fuel technologies that could also help increase the efficiency of the operating units at India’s Kudankulam Nuclear Power Plant (KNPP), according to an expert.  
 

At a conference on nuclear fuels held earlier this month in Hyderabad, India, TVEL’s Senior Vice-President (R&D), Alexander Ugryumov, made a presentation on new Russian technologies, including new materials and models of nuclear fuel, solutions for higher uranium enrichment, as well as the closed nuclear fuel cycle and the new prospect this opens for NPPs.  

Rosatom is the equipment supplier and technical consultant for the KNPP, India’s largest nuclear plant operated by the state-run Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd (NPCIL). Rosatom is similarly collaborating in the construction of four more units at Kudankulam – 3, 4, 5 and 6 – of 1,000 MW capacity each. Units 1 and 2 started commercial operations in 2014 and 2016, respectively.  

Earlier this year, TVEL started supplying the more advanced TVS-2M fuel to Kudankulam, instead of the previously supplied UTVS model.  The new TVS-2M nuclear fuel enables an elongation of the fuel cycle from 12 to 18 months for the KNPP’s operating VVER-1000 reactor units 1 and 2, enhancing their performance and economic efficiency.  

Ugryumov noted that introduction of nuclear fuel with enrichment over the 5 percent level will enable operations of VVER-1000 reactors in longer 24-month fuel cycles. Extending the fuel cycle means that a power plant may stop reactors for refueling less frequently, thereby generating more electricity per year.   

Besides, longer fuel cycles imply fewer purchases of fresh fuel assemblies, as well as less offloading of irradiated fuel bundles and, therefore, less expenditure on handling of spent fuel.   

Ugryumov also said that using fuel with uranium enrichment over 5 percent may decrease the amount of annually replaced fuel bundles which would lead to significant economic benefits over the course of the power unit’s lifecycle.  

In his presentation, Ugryumov elaborated on the development of Advanced Technology Fuel (ATF), with new cladding materials that enhance its safety. The Russian ATF program includes the development and testing of new materials involving both the cladding and the fuel matrix.   

Under an ongoing lead test rod program being carried out in a VVER-1000 reactor at the Rostov NPP, several fuel assemblies containing ATF fuel rods with innovative claddings made of chromium-nickel alloy, as well as zirconium alloy with chromium coating, are undergoing irradiation.   

Besides, experimental fuel rods with four different combinations of fuel composition and cladding materials are undergoing the fourth cycle of testing in the MIR research reactor at the Research Institute of Atomic Reactors in Dimitrovgrad. In addition, testing of VVER and pressurised water reactor (PWR) fuel rods with new uranium-silicide fuel has started this year in the MIR reactor. 

Other major developments include the ongoing work on fast neutron reactors, and on closed nuclear fuel cycle technologies, which are based on fabrication of fresh uranium-plutonium fuel from reprocessed irradiated fuel.  

Ugryumov explained that the technologies of fast reactors and nuclear recycling would enable Rosatom to offer its customers a new integrated product described as the “Balanced Nuclear Fuel Cycle”.   

This Rosatom strategy would solve several highly important tasks. First, this would exponentially boost the feedstock for nuclear power plants. Second, this would enable recycling of spent nuclear fuel instead of storage. Moreover, as part of the nuclear fuel cycle this would allow utilising the accumulated ground stocks of depleted uranium hexafluoride and plutonium for production of fresh fuel.   

TVEL has already started construction of a 300 MW nuclear power unit equipped with the BREST-OD-300 fast neutron reactor at the Siberian Chemical Combine in Seversk.   

Both the fuel fabrication and the reactor units form part of the Pilot Demonstration Energy Complex (PDEC) being built at the Siberian Chemical Plant by TVEL. The PDEC is underway as part of the strategic “Proryv” (‘Breakthrough’ in Russian) project. It will include three linked facilities, making up a closed nuclear fuel cycle at one site — the fuel fabrication/re-fabrication unit, the 300 MW nuclear power plant with the fast neutron BREST-OD-300 reactor, and the unit for spent fuel reprocessing.  

According to TVEL, “after reprocessing, the irradiated fuel from the reactor will be sent for refabrication (that is, reproduction into fresh fuel), thereby giving this system the means to gradually become practically autonomous and independent of external resources supplies”.   

The nuclear power industry’s resource base will practically become inexhaustible thanks to the infinite reprocessing of nuclear fuel. At the same time, future generations will be spared the problem of accumulating spent nuclear fuel.  

TVEL announced last year it has developed a fuel rod design based on nitride uranium-plutonium (MNUP) fuel for the BREST-OD-300 fast neutron reactor,    

The world’s most powerful fast neutron reactor called the BN-800, currently operating at unit 4 of the Beloyarsk NPP in Russia, was loaded last year with the first serial batch of MOX fuel made of depleted uranium and plutonium oxides. The BN-800 fast neutron reactor is designed to use MOX fuel as one of the stages in the development of a closed nuclear fuel cycle.  

According to TVEL “distinct from traditional nuclear fuel with enriched uranium, MOX fuel pellets are based on the mix of nuclear fuel cycle derivatives, such as oxide of plutonium bred in commercial reactors, and oxide of depleted uranium which is derived by defluorination of depleted uranium hexafluoride (UF6)”.  

Rosatom is currently also developing the fifth-generation model of a uranium-plutonium fuel assembly named TVS-5, which would enable a fully automated unmanned fabrication of fuel with plutonium and its handling at nuclear power plants.  

Ugryumov concluded his presentation by saying that Rosatom is ready to provide foreign customers with a full range of solutions, including the processing of spent nuclear fuel in Russia, as well as manufacture and supply of uranium-plutonium fuel for common thermal neutrons reactors like light water units of the VVER type.

“Precise Energy” science Olympiad attracts big response in India’s Tamil Nadu state

A recent initiative by the Russian state atomic energy corporation Rosatom to raise public awareness in India about nuclear technology was successful in generating an overwhelming response with the participation of over 7,000 students in Tamil Nadu state in an Olympiad competition in mathematics, chemistry and physics titled “Precise Energy 2022”.  

A Rosatom statement said that students from 24 universities and colleges in Tamil Nadu participated in the senior level competition, comprising separate written tests in mathematics, physics and chemistry, while pupils from 50 schools took part in the junior level tests. 

The competition was designed to stimulate an interest in the study of technical and scientific disciplines that are important for specialisations in nuclear energy. The event was also aimed at promoting science and technology, and was held to encourage talented youth in the educational institutions in Tamil Nadu.  

Rosatom is the equipment supplier and technical consultant for the Kudankulam Nuclear Power Project (KNPP) in Tamil Nadu, the first two units of which are already connected to the grid. Rosatom is also collaborating with the Indian operator, the state-run Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd (NPCIL), in building four more similar reactors of 1,000 MW capacity each at Kudankulam – Units 3, 4, 5 and 6. 

The Olympiad, which was organized for the second time in Tamil Nadu, was held in two rounds — over 7,000 students took part in the preliminary round and more than 720 of them qualified for the final round. 

“We in Rosatom value knowledge and education very much, and we have seen so many successful participants (more than 7000) from the region of Kudankulam NPP construction for the second time at the Precise Energy-2022, which was a great showcase of how advanced and up-to-date science education in India is”, Rosatom South Asia CEO, Andrey Shevlyakov, said in a statement.  

School and college students from Tamil Nadu competed at the junior level and demonstrated their knowledge in a general science test.

The preliminary round was judged by a jury panel comprising teachers from the local educational institutions, while the final round judgement was done by specially invited Russian professors from the National Research Nuclear University MEPhI (Moscow Engineering Physics Institute). 

The top participants in each of the three subjects were awarded at the senior level, while a second set of top three performers received prizes at the junior level. 

The winners are Ragul Raj M from Anna University (in Physics), Ajit Ashok from Anna University (in Mathematics), Subashri A from SDNB Vaishnav College (in Chemistry) and Asilkhalifa from St. John’s English School (Junior level). 

The Olympiad “Precise Energy”, which has become a regular feature among the many Rosatom initiatives to raise public awareness about the benefits of nuclear technology, is traditionally held by Rosatom’s engineering division together with ANO Energy of Future in partnership with the Russian House in Chennai, the Moscow Engineering Physics Institute and Tamil Nadu Science and Technology Centre.  

According to Rosatom, the first such competition, organized in 2020, generated great interest among young people, and witnessed the participation of over 3,000 students. 

Fuel dummies shipped to Turkey for pre-launch test of unit 1 Akkuyu nuclear plant 

Nuclear fuel dummies together with control rod mockups have been shipped for the under-construction unit 1 of Turkey’s first nuclear power plant (NPP) at Akkuyu, being constructed with the assistance of the Russian state atomic energy corporation Rosatom. 

These mockups, or replicas for experimental use, as well as tools for incoming inspections of nuclear fuel, have been manufactured in Russia and shipped to the Akkuyu NPP by Rosatom’s fuel arm the TVEL Fuel Company, according to a statement from Rosatom earlier this week. 

Before the launch of a new nuclear power unit, dummies of fuel assemblies, as well as mockups of control rods get loaded into the reactor core and then unloaded in order to test the key systems of the facility. 

“The reactor core of a Generation III+ power unit consists of 163 fuel assemblies with uranium fuel”, the statement said.  

The building and installation work of all four Akkuyu NPP power units are being carried out simultaneously, making it the world’s largest nuclear construction site. All the units are to be equipped with the state-of-the-art Generation III plus VVER-1200 reactors of 1,200 MW capacity each fitted with both active and passive safety systems. 

The statement said that the first delivery of loading nuclear fuel for Akkuyu’s unit 1 is scheduled for 2023. 

Besides, TVEL’s Central Institute of Design and Technology will supply to each of the four units of the Akkuyu NPP Russian-made refueling machines, which are used for nuclear fuel loading and replacement of spent fuel, the statement added. The shipment of the refueling machine to the first unit is also scheduled for 2023. 

Turkey plans to bring the 1,200 MW unit 1 online in 2023. With the commissioning of three more similar units, the Akkuyu NPP will have a total capacity of 4,800 MW, which is expected to meet around 10 percent of the country’s electricity needs. 

Rosatom receives high rating for performance in ecology, social responsibility, governance 

The Russian state atomic energy corporation Rosatom has received high ratings from the country’s biggest rating agency, the Analytical Credit Rating Agency (ACRA), on account of its performance in the area of sustainability. 

ACRA has assigned Rosatom an ESG-3 rating, and placed it in category ESG-B, which corresponds to a very high assessment. An ESG assessment analyzes the quantitative and qualitative characteristics of the subject entity’s activities in the fields of ecology, social responsibility, as well as corporate governance.   

As per their website, ACRA’s ESG assessment determination of Rosatom is a “very high assessment in the field of the environment, social responsibility and governance. Increased attention is paid to the environment, social responsibility, and governance matters.” 

“The assessment is based on the Company’s (Rosatom) favorable indicators in the fields of environmental impact and social responsibility compared to peer companies, as well as high quality corporate governance”, ACRA said. 

Five key divisions of Rosatom were assessed through questionnaires, analysis of public and non-public information, including non-financial reporting and corporate governance documents, as well as interviews. 

ACRA also took note of Rosatom’s implementation of policies and procedures for managing key ESG risks. 

“According to the ESG Assessment Methodology, a very high ESG assessment means that the Corporation pays increased attention to environmental, social responsibility, and governance matters”, ACRA said.  

In terms of its key assessment factors, the rating agency noted, for instance, the “very high assessment of the Corporation’s activity in the area of environmental impact and its actions to minimize environmental risks.”  

Rosatom said in a statement that it has been following the sustainable development principles for many years, which have been incorporated in the company’s long-term strategy.  

“In 2020, the Unified Industry Policy for Sustainable Development was adopted. In October of the same year, Rosatom joined the UN Global Compact, the largest international initiative for business in the area of corporate social responsibility and sustainable development”, the statement said.  

“ESG principles remain the main development trend of the country’s business community. The concept of sustainable development implies efficient use of resources, harmonious development of society, being an integral part of progress”, it added.  

Rosatom’s strategy is to develop low-carbon power generation projects, including in the wind generation field. Today the company brings together over 300 enterprises and organisations and over 250,000 employees. 

Modernisation of navigation aids completed on Yenisei River section of Northern Sea Route  

The work of modernising the navigation aids on the Yenisei River, which is one of the busiest sections of the Northern Sea Route in the Arctic waters, has been completed by Hydrographic Enterprises, a subsidiary of the Russian state atomic energy corporation Rosatom.  

The Yenisei is the fifth-longest river system in the world, and the largest to drain into the Arctic Ocean. 

Rosatom operates nuclear powered icebreakers that help keep the Northern Sea Route (NSR) open for navigation through the year. In addition, Rosatom is equipping the NSR facilities, building port infrastructure, and developing transit. 

A Rosatom statement earlier this week said that as part of the modernisation work, 18 landmark beacons and 40 floating beacons, or buoys, have been equipped with new software and hardware systems on the Yenisei River section of the NSR from Cape Sopochnaya Karga to the Dudinka seaport.  

“The new equipment enables remote monitoring of the operation of the navigation aids: geolocation and battery charge level, displacement coordinates, deformation, and slope. This allows quickly identifying and eliminating malfunctions in the operation of navigation aids”, the statement said.  

According to Rosatom, buoys with new equipment are operated during summer and autumn navigation, while landmark beacons are used all year round.  

The collected information is communicated from buoy to buoy via radio channel, then summarized on the landmark beacons, and finally transmitted via satellite to the office of Hydrographic Enterprise in St. Petersburg, the statement added.  

Besides the nuclear-powered icebreakers currently being constructed under Rosatom’s Project 22220 (two such ships have already been commissioned), work is also underway on the company’s 10510 Leader project to build a series of nuclear icebreakers during the current decade, which would supersede the Project 22220 output as the largest and most powerful icebreakers in the world. 

The Northern Sea Route via the Arctic is the shortest route between the East Asian and Western European ports. Russia’s Far East and Arctic regions have a great export potential due to the proximity of such countries as China, India, Vietnam, Bangladesh and Myanmar, among others.

Popular posts