Russian state nuclear corporation Rosatom, as part of its Innovative Development and Technological Modernisation Programme up to 2030, published on 17 August, intends to establish a pilot project for low power NPPs (1-300MWe), by 2020 (LCNPP), with a view to installing such a plant in the Arctic region. It would supply power to various facilities and civil defence systems in coastal, marine and oceanic areas.

The programme also allows for development of the world’s most cost-effective NPP by 2027 to improve Rosatom’s competitiveness in the global nuclear technology market. By 2019, it is planned to produce a feasibility study of new medium power plant designs (300-700 MWe). These “are in demand in the foreign market that is taking shape” and construction of medium NPPs for the Russian Federation also “requires a detailed study of market needs and justification of competitiveness”. Currently, two promising medium power designs are under development: the VVER-600 by OKB Gidropress and VBER-600 by OKBM Afrikantov.

The programme also includes plans to test innovative energy-efficient uranium-erbium fuel for VVER-1000 and VVER-1200 nuclear reactors in 2020. Erbium is a burnable neutron poison which absorbs neutrons and is set to replace other absorbing substances currently used in uranium fuel such as the rare-earth metal gadolinium. Erbium-based technology is currently used in RBMK reactors, which operate at the Leningrad, Kursk and Smolensk NPPs. It is envisaged that uranium-erbium fuel with higher uranium enrichment (5%) will be able to operate in 24-month fuel cycle.

Design and advancement of nuclear fuel and cores for thermal neutron reactors for Russian and foreign NPPs are another area for innovation with the aim of increasing fuel consumption efficiency. In particular, by 2020 it is planned to complete programmes of pre-reactor, in-pile and post-reactor studies of the fourth generation fuel assemblies for VVER-1000 reactors and TVS-2006 fuel for VVER-1200 reactors.

Implementation of Generation III fuel assemblies for VVER-440 reactors is also planned for 2020. In 2021 the programme of pilot commercial operation of Russian TVS-Kvadrat fuel for PWRs of western designs will be completed. In the longer term, by 2030, it is planned to develop fuel with higher robustness to loss of coolant accidents.