Russia’s BN1200 to begin construction in 2027

23 January 2024

Construction of unit 5 at Russia’s Beloyarsk NPP with a BN1200 sodium-cooled fast neutron reactor will begin in 2027, according to plant director Ivan Sidorov. The BN1200 will be the world’s largest fast neutron reactor, replacing Beloyarsk 4 with a BN800 reactor, which previously held that record. Sidorov told the Beloyarsk corporate newspaper, Quick Neutron, that work at unit 5 was on schedule. "The site for the new unit has already been determined, public hearings on the placement have been held. In accordance with the programme, we are doing engineering research, we are drilling wells for them," he said.

Rosatom is developing technologies for the transition to a competitive two-component energy system based on a closed nuclear fuel cycle (ZYTTs - Zamkhutovo Yadernovo Toplivnovo Tsikla). The operation of traditional VVER power reactors will be used to support fast neutron reactors which will reuse reprocessed fuel from the VVERs, significantly increasing the nuclear fuel base, ending the need for large scale uranium mining. The fast reactors will also be able to burn minor actinides (highly radioactive material residues from fuel reprocessing. This will reduce the amount of waste that needs to be managed.

Thanks to fast neutron reactors, the ZYTTs will expand the reproduction of nuclear "hot", plutonium, and the nuclear fuel base will significantly increase, eliminating the need for large-scale extraction of natural uranium. It will also be possible to reduce the amount and biological hazard of radioactive waste remaining after reprocessing of spent nuclear fuel (SNF) - the most dangerous radionuclides (the so-called minor actinides) are planned to "burn out" in fast neutron reactors. So, it will be possible, as the nuclear scientists figuratively say, to "take out two key splinters" of the current nuclear energy sector, associated with the limited reserves of natural uranium and the delayed problem of SNF.

Currently, the basic technologies for the ZYTTs in Russia are being developed at the Beloyarsk NPP energy complex, in particular at unit 3 with a BN-600 reactor and unit 4 with the larger BN-800. Development of sodium-cooled fast reactor technology is continuing as part of the Proryv (Breakthrough) project. In 2016, the technical design of the BN1200 reactor unit was completed. Then the specialists determined how to improve its technical and economic characteristics and development of the project began. In 2018, technical specifications for the BN-1200M were approved and research and development work was continued to improve technical solutions, safety, and competitiveness of the new power unit.

Image: Beloyarsk nuclear power plant (courtesy of Rosatom)

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