The head of Russia’s Ulyanovsk region, Alexey Russkikh, on 17 June took part in a meeting at the operational headquarters for the construction of the MBIR research reactor at the Research Institute of Atomic Reactors (NIIAR) in Dimitrovgrad. The meeting was chaired by Gennady Sakharov, Rosatom’s Director for Capital Investments, State Construction Supervision and State Expertise. Acting Governor Russkikh and the other participants of the meeting also inspected the construction site of the reactor.

The 150MWt multipurpose sodium-cooled fast neutron MBIR research nuclear reactor is expected to provide the nuclear industry with a modern and technologically advanced research infrastructure for the coming 50 years. Its unique technical characteristics will make it possible to solve a wide range of research problems to support the development new competitive and safe NPPs, including fast reactors based on closing the nuclear fuel cycle. Research time needed at the new reactor will be several times less in comparison with the currently operating installations. MBIR will replace the BOR-60 fast reactor operating in Dimitrovgrad, which is reaching the end of its design life, but will offer added facilities.

MBIR will also be the base for an international research centre, where international researchers will be able to carry out their experiments. With the launch of MBIR, Russia expects receive significant additional advantages in the global market for research nuclear facilities. However, the MBIR project has seen some delays. Construction of the reactor began in September 2015, at which time the date for commissioning was 2020. In NIIAR’s annual report for 2018, the commissioning of the reactor for commercial operation set for 2025 but this has been deferred by two years. An operating licence is now expected to be issued for the reactor in 2027 for physical start-up with power start-up and commissioning scheduled for 2028.

“The scale of NIIAR and new innovative projects is impressive. The construction of a modern reactor on the site of the research institute is the key to long-term development of this city [Dimitrovgrad] of nuclear scientists and the Ulyanovsk region as an international scientific centre,” said Russkikh. “Prospects have been drawn up for at least 60 years ahead – these are serious planning horizons. We also have a lot to do in the development of the social sphere and infrastructure of Dimitrovgrad, which we discussed when visiting the site. More than 450 hectares of territory have been transferred to the municipality for the construction of kindergartens, schools, hospitals, sports facilities and, of course, to create modern living conditions for employees and residents of Dimitrovgrad.” He added: “I was also personally convinced that safety and environmental issues are of paramount importance in any nuclear construction.”

Gennady Sakharov said the construction of MBIR is a strategic project for Russia. It is a pilot project not only for the nuclear industry and research work, but also as a platform for the integrated implementation of world innovations in construction, including modelling, remote monitoring tools, automated price control systems, etc. He noted that work is proceeding rapidly, adding that in 2020 the planned construction programme was exceeded by 15%, with the arrival of the reactor vessel now expected on site in the autumn. 

The head of the Ulyanovsk cabinet, Alexander Smekalin, said: “This is a landmark project for the region and Dimitrovgrad – during the construction period alone up to 2000 jobs will be created. And after the commissioning of MBIR, Dimitrovgrad will become an attractive focus for research at the international level.” As part of the project, the first steps are being taken towards the establishment of a nuclear innovation cluster in Dimitrovgrad, which is included in the list of pilot programmes for the development of innovative territorial clusters in the Russian Federation.

“The construction of the reactor should become a platform for strengthening the engineering and scientific personnel potential of the region and popularising specialties – an example of high-tech achievements in the construction industry,” said Sakharov. “Students will be able to count on not only interesting work at an innovative construction site, but also decent wages, comfortable working conditions and medical care.” MBIR is included in the International Centre for the Implementation of Joint Research Projects Based on Research Reactors and is considered as an experimental base under the auspices of the International Atomic Energy agency.

Image: Artists impression of MBIR reactor (Credit Rosatom)