Rapid progress is being made towards commissioning of the world's most powerful multipurpose research nuclear reactor, Russia’s MBIR, under construction at the research Institute of Atomic Reactors (NIIAR in Dimitrovgrad, Ulyanovsk region). Commissioning is now scheduled for 2028, Alexander Kurskiy, the head of the project office of advanced technologies Rosatom’s Science and Innovations, Division, said on 10 February. He added that it is planned to obtain a licence to operate the reactor in 2027 and to carry out the physical start-up by the end of the same year. An energy start-up of MBIR is planned for 2028 with formal commissioning in the fourth quarter of that year.
At a meeting in Dimitrovgrad on 15 February, the status of construction and installation work at the MBIR site was discussed.
“During the construction of the MBIR, remote monitoring tools will be introduced using digital and unmanned technologies,” said Gennady Sakharov, Director for Capital Investments, State Construction Supervision and State Expertise of Rosatom. “This method has already been successfully tested during the construction of the Rooppur NPP in Bangladesh. Remote monitoring provides access to objective, regularly updated information about the state of the construction site. "
The remote monitoring system will make it possible to use drones to receive operational information about the progress of construction work, analyse and predict deviations. Ground-based laser scanning will also be able to quickly identify deviations from design parameters. This will make it impossible to hide defects during the installation of equipment and engineering networks. For the first time, Rosatom is setting up a large-scale state scientific facility using a BIM information model that enables monitoring of construction progress in real time.
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 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, like the PIK reactor recently launched in St Petersburg, 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.
In November 2020, Rosatom signed a new general contract for the construction of MBIR with the company "Institute" Orgenergostroy ", which is the leader of a consortium of contractors for all main types of work. The consortium also includes insurance, leasing companies and partner banks. On 8 February Russia’s Yugoria Group of Insurance Companies and the Orgenergostroy Institute signed a RUB 33bn ($442m) insurance contract related to the construction of MBIR. “The construction of the facility comes under the state programme “Development of the nuclear power industry complex”, commented Alexey Okhlopkov, General Director of the Yugoria Group abroad.
He added that the Orgenergostroy Institute “is our significant partner and we are certainly interested in long-term mutually beneficial cooperation”. In 2020, Orgenergostroy, as the general contractor for the project, began construction of main and auxiliary buildings and structures as part of the MBIR project. “Implementation of the project is in an active stage: more than 650 people and more than 50 pieces of equipment have already been mobilised at the site, which, it should be noted, is ahead of the planned schedule,” said Elguja Kokosadze, General Director of the Orgenergostroy Institute.
The February meeting also discussed the status and risks of the implementation of key events of 2021, and agreed on the timing of the delivery of equipment that affects construction and installation works. Some 2000 residents of Dimitrovgrad will be employed in the construction. Under Rosatom’s programme in 2021, investments in MBIR will amount to about RUB12 billion ($163m). Throughout the past year, despite the pandemic, preparatory work continued and the main contractors are now moving in. The site currently employs about 300 people and by the middle of the year their number will increase fivefold.
MBIR will provide the nuclear industry with a modern and technologically advanced research infrastructure for the next 50 years. Its unique technical characteristics will make it possible to solve a wide range of tasks that will become the basis for the creation of new competitive and safe nuclear power plants in the future. At the same time, research on the new reactor can be carried out several times faster than on its predecessors.
The new facility will serve as an impetus for the development of competencies in the field of nuclear energy in the Ulyanovsk region, ensure the systematic construction of a nuclear innovation cluster and will contribute to the creation of modern infrastructure in Dimitrovgrad. “At the suggestion of Governor Sergei Morozov, the Ulyanovsk region can increase cooperation with Rosatom and form in Dimitrovgrad a completely new regional competence in the design and construction of complex facilities,” noted the chairman of the Ulyanovsk region government, Alexander Smekalin. The aim is to establish a specialised Rosatom centre, which will include a design institute and a full-fledged customer service.