Russia’s Mining and Chemical Combine (MCC) in Zheleznogorsk has received a five-year full licence from the Federal Service for Environmental, Technological and Nuclear Supervision (Rostechnadzor) for the industrial production of uranium-plutonium mixed oxide fuel for the BN-800 at unit 4 of the Beloyarsk NPP. Previously MCC’s mox plant worked under a pilot operation licence, which was also valid for five years.
The documents submitted for obtaining the licence, including justification of safety, were prepared by the engineers of the fuel fabrication plant’s technical management, NP MCIK, the service of the chief geologist of the enterprise.
Russia’s mox programme began in 2000 a result of an agreement signed with the USA on the disposal of military plutonium. At that time, Russia’s fast reactors used uranium oxide. The agreement had to be implemented and it was assumed that Western countries would transfer technology and assist with funding. In the event, no subsidies were forthcoming, but Russia still went ahead with mox development in line with the agreement.
By the time the USA cancelled its own mox programme in 2018, Russia’s mox development was well advanced. In 2011 Russia had adopted a long-term strategy aiming to close the fuel cycle based on fast reactors. Significant funds were then allocated to complete work on the production of mox fuel in view of the planned launch of the BN-800.
MCC’s fuel production line is located 200 metres underground. Russia’s mox is manufactured using depleted uranium and plutonium.
In July Russia manufactured the first full reload batch of mox fuel for Beloyarsk 4, which had previously operated with a hybrid core comprised of both mox and enriched uranium. refuelling of the BN-800 with a full mox core is scheduled for January 2021.
Photo: The first batch of mox fuel for the BN-800 was produced in 2018 (Photo credit: TVEL):