The RT-1 reprocessing plant of Russia’s Mayak Production Association has begun processing fuel from the TIBR transportable pulsed fast reactor. The fuel’s composition is based on a metal alloy of uranium and molybdenum with elements of zirconium hydride. TIBR is research pulsed nuclear installation, which produces a powerful source of neutrons necessary for studying the physical properties of the atomic nucleus. It simulates the impact of a nuclear explosion on various objects, mainly military equipment, including nuclear weapons.
The installation was created in 1970, after which it was transferred to the Research Institute of Instruments in Lytkarino (Moscow region). The operation of the installation ended in 2015, and the task of removing and reprocessing the used nuclear fuel then began.
“For processing, the fuel composition in the form of metal hemispheres was delivered to the RT-1 plant in a special transport canister made of corrosion steel, and then the canister was loaded into a solvent apparatus,” said Andrey Germashev, head of the production and technical department of the radiochemical plant. “After the dissolution operation, the plant’s specialists isolated and purified valuable components from impurities. A serious problem that could complicate reprocessing is the formation of precipitates in the form of molybdic acid and zirconium molybdate at the key stages of reprocessing, including dissolution, extraction refining and evaporation of solutions.” In the event, solutions were developed that make it possible to process this type of fuel without deviations from the normal regime and in compliance with all safety and quality requirements.
Mayak is the only Russian enterprise that undertakes radiochemical reprocessing of used fuel on an industrial scale. The plant reprocesses fuel from various power and research reactors and the range of reprocessed fuel is constantly expanding. The plant has accumulated extensive experience in processing various fuel compositions based on oxides, carbides and metals.
Image: The RT-1 reprocessing plant (courtesy of PA "Mayak")