The BN-600 fast reactorUnit 3 of Russia’s Beloyarsk nuclear plant has received a licence to operate the BN-600 fast reactor for another five years.

The unit can now operate until 2025. Beloyarsk 3, which started operation in 1980, is also being prepared for further life to 2040.

In 2010 the BN-600 received a licence from Rostekhnadzor to operate for an additional ten years beyond its 30-year design life.

“We have completed work to extend the life of unit 3 until 2025,” said Ivan Sidorov, director of the Beloyarsk plant. “In the course of our research, we proved that the technical parameters of the BN-600 allow us to operate it until 2040."

He added that Atomproect is currently developing a project for an additional extension of the operating life, the work on which is planned to be completed by 2024. After this, Rosenergoatom will need to apply to   Rostekhnadzor to for a licence to operate from 2025-2040.

Since 2009, a large-scale programme to modernise the Beloyarsk 3 has been undertaken, including safety upgrades, inspection and replacement of equipment, including the steam generator modules.

In 2010, Beloyarsk 3 was confirmed to have met the latest safety requirements, and the extension of the operating life was justified until 2025.

However, regulator Rostekhnadzor issued a licence only for ten years, requesting additional justification for irreplaceable reactor elements. This work has now been completed. OKBM Afrikantov, Research Centre Kurchatov Institute, and the Prometey Central Scientific Research Institute Of Structural Materials, completed a material science programme of investigation and concluded that it is technically possible to continue operation of the unit. Based on this, Rostekhnadzor extended the licence from 2020 to 2025.

The sodium-cooled BN-series of fast reactors are part of Rosatom's Proryv, or 'Breakthrough', project to develop a closed fuel cycle whose mixed oxide (mox) fuel will be reprocessed and recycled.

In addition to the BN-600 reactor, the 789MWe BN-800 fast neutron reactor at Beloyarsk unit 4 entered commercial operation in October 2016. BN-800 was primarily a demonstration unit for fuel and design features for the larger BN-1200 being developed by OKBM Afrikantov. However, in January, Russia’s Ministry of Energy said it did not expect the new BN-1200 sodium-cooled fast reactor planned for unit 5 at the Beloyarsk nuclear plant to be built before 2035.

Photo: BN-600 fast reactor (credit: Rosenergoatom)