Russia’s NIIAR modernises SM-3 research reactor

8 October 2020

Research Institute of Atomic Reactors  (NIIAR) in Dimitrovgrad said on 7 October that it had completed modernisation of the core of the world's highest-flux research reactor, the SM-3, which has now been brought back to the design power level. The staff of the institute carried out a large range of measures including the development, manufacture and installation of new elements of the reactor core, and dismantling of worn-out components. “We have upgraded the core of the world’s most high-flux research reactor; we have technologies for the manufacture and replacement of internals, said NIIAR Director of Alexander Tuzov. “Specialists from a number of departments of the institute were involved in this project, which is important for domestic and world nuclear science and technology.”

Specialists replaced the reactor internals, created a new digital control and protection system with universal actuators for control bodies, and substantiated the possibility of converting the reactor to a more efficient fuel. The number of experimental channels in a neutron trap with an ultra-high neutron flux density has been doubled, which will increase the production of isotopes and transplutonium elements by 40%. As well as improving the technical and economic indicators and safety characteristics of the reactor, the upgrades offer the possibility of extending the service life of the reactor beyond 2040.

The SM-3 is a pressurised water-moderated intermediate neutron reactor with a neutron trap. The original design of the reactor, the presence of a neutron trap, its several dozen experimental channels, and its loop devices provide the possibility of conducting various studies, obtaining transuranic elements and radionuclides with high specific activity.

NIIAR has five operating research reactors and another under construction. Operating reactors include the high flux SM-3, the Bor-60 fast reactor, the multi-loop reactor MIR.M1 (a thermal heterogeneous channel-type reactor immersed in a water pool offering the advantages of both pool-type and channel-type reactors), and the pool-type reactors RBT-6 & RBT-10. Under construction is the MBIR multi-purpose high-flux fast test reactor, which will become the basis of an international research centre. NIIAR also has Europe’s biggest reactor materials testing complex as well as fuel cycle R&D facilities, a radiochemical complex and radioactive waste management facilities.

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