Rosatom to construct 10 MWe Shelf-M to power Chukotka gold mine

17 January 2024

Russia’s State Commission for Solid Mineral Reserves at the Federal Agency for Subsoil Use (Rosnedra) has approved calculations of reserves at the Sovinoye gold ore deposit (Chukotka Autonomous Okrug), presented by JSC Elkonsk Mining & Metallurgical Plant (EGMK) of more than 100 tonnes of gold. This is the largest gold field discovered in Russia since 1991. EGMK, part of the mining division of Rosatom, was originally set up to develop large uranium deposits in the Elkonskoye region.

Rosatom’s Mining Division has already invested more than RUB1bn ($11.3m) to develop a mining cluster based on the Sovinoye field and ore fields of Ryvei and Dor. All exploration, topographic and geodetic, geological, geochemical and geophysical works have been completed. Drilling was carried out continuously for three years, under permafrost conditions during which 123 wells with a total length of more than 32 kilometres were drilled. The project provides for the creation of a production complex for the extraction and processing of gold-containing ores and the production of output in the form of a ligature ingot.

By the end of 2028, the construction and launch of mining and processing will be completed, said EGMK Director General Vyacheslav Galaktionov. “To develop the Sovinoye field, we plan to reach its design capacity in 2029 and produce at least three tonnes of gold a year. We see prospects for expanding the entire mining cluster in the Chukotka Autonomous Okrug, which in turn will give a big impetus to the development of the region. The joint plans of Rosatom and the region include projects for the development of energy infrastructure and the construction of a shift village, landing strip, roads and sea pier, as well as the construction of the world's first low-power nuclear power plant with a Shelf-M reactor of up to 10 MWe.”

In August 2023, Rosatom identified five possible sites for construction of a Shelf-M NPP. As well as the Sovinoye gold deposit in the Iultinsky district of Chukotka, they include two sites in Yakutia and two in in Krasnoyarsk Territory. Semyon Musher, Science Adviser at JSC Rusatom Overseas explained that construction would take four years from the date of obtaining a licence for or three in a milder environment.

The developer of the Shelf-M reactor plant and the general designer is NA Dollezhal Scientific Research & Design Institute of Power Engineering (Nikiet). The service life of the station is 60 years, and the reactor operates for about eight years on a single fuel load. The capacity of the reactor is 35 MWt or 10 MWe. It is planned to complete the technical designs of the reactor plant and the main process equipment by 2024 with the aim of launching operation by 2030. The Shelf-M can operate using natural circulation of the primary coolant at approximately 30% of maximum power avoiding the need for power supply systems or pumps.

Image: The Shelf-M reactor concept (courtesy of Rosatom)

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