Russia is offering new technologies and to improve the efficiency of the nuclear fuel cycle at India’s Kudankulam NPP, according to Alexander Ugryumov, senior vice-president for research and development at Rosatom’s fuel company TVEL. These solutions can enhance the efficiency of the existing VVER-1000 reactors at Kudankulam, as well as those under construction, he said.

Two Russian-designed 1,000MWe pressurised water reactors are currently operating at the Kudankulam plant in Tamil Nadu and four more are under construction. Among the new solutions and technologies are new models of nuclear fuel, solutions for higher uranium enrichment and technologies for a closed nuclear fuel cycle, Rosatom said. These technologies offer the potential to make plant operations more efficient over several decades.

Earlier this year, TVEL began providing the more advanced TVS-2M fuel to India, instead of the UTVS model previously supplied. The new fuel allows reactors to operate for 18 months before they need to be refuelled instead of the standard 12 months. The TVS-2M fuel is also more reliable.

However, Ugryumov said the introduction of nuclear fuel with more than 5% enrichment would enable the VVER-1000 reactors to operate for 24-month fuel cycles which would be a significant economic advantage. An extended fuel cycle means the power plant means fewer outages for refuelling, reduces the amount of fresh fuel assemblies required, and also reduces the amount of used fuel which needs to be managed. 

He also highlighted the development of Accident Tolerant Fuel (ATF), a new generation fuel that is safer, noting that Rosatom is implementing an ATF programme, including development and testing of new fuel materials in a VVER-1000 reactor. Rosatom is also ready to provide other solutions, including processing of used fuel in Russia and supplying mixed oxide uranium-plutonium fuel for thermal neutrons reactors, especially light-water installations such as VVERs.

Image: The Kudankulam nuclear power plant (courtesy of Hindustan Times)