Russia’s Angarsk Electrol-Chemical Plant (AECC), part of Rosatom’s fuel company TVEL, on 19 March launched a pilot plant for the production of battery-quality lithium hydroxide. The new production at AECC is mainly export-oriented – its potential customers are manufacturers of lithium-ion battery components, TVEL said. The main Russian customer will be TVEL’s Novosibirsk Chemical Concentrates Plant (NCCP), the largest producer of lithium and its compounds in Russia.

The new installation was accepted for pilot operation, during which the technology will be tested, the technical characteristics of the process will be confirmed and prototypes of the products will be obtained. Based on the results, key technological solutions will be developed for large-scale production, which is planned to begin in 2024. However, in 2021, it is planned not only to produce pilot batches of lithium hydroxide, but also to start selling it to consumers.

The production site at AECC will operate without generating waste, which is of particular importance for industry in the Baikal region and is in line with the UN Sustainable Development Goal “Responsible Consumption and Production”, It will also be less energy-intensive compared with the classical technology for the production of lithium hydroxide.

“Spetschemistry” is a dynamically developing non-nuclear business of TVEL with an annual revenue of RUB10 billion ($135,000), and one of its drivers is export supplies of lithium products. “Mastering the production of lithium hydroxide at AECC will expand the product line and strengthen its position in the world market of lithium products, which, according to forecasts for the next decade, will have double-digit growth rates,” said Mikhail Metelkin, director of TVEL’s Spetschemistry business unit.

Mastering the production of lithium hydroxide is one of a series of projects for the creation of new non-nuclear production at AECC in the area of "Special Chemistry". The production of potassium bifluoride is already underway and work has begun to establish production of polyanionic cellulose.

It was established in 1957 to undertake uranium enrichment and conversion. Conversion activities ceased at Angarsk in 2014 after VEL decided in 2011 to concentrate Russian conversion capacities at the Siberian Chemical Combine (SCC) in Seversk. In the wake of this decision, AECC underwent restructuring aimed at increasing production efficiency and reducing production costs. While the main activity of AECC remains the production of enriched uranium hexafluoride, the company is also developing new non-nuclear business areas.