On 16 December, Russia’s Production Association Mayak (part of state nuclear corporation Rosatom) received the first train-load of used nuclear fuel from the VVER-1000 reactors at the Rostov NPP for reprocessing. VVER-1000 fuel has hitherto not been reprocessed but following substantial upgrading and the installation of a third production line at its radiochemical plant, Mayak can now handle it. Russia currently operates 35 VVER-1000 power reactors of various design, and has accumulated more than 6,000t of used VVER-1000 fuel of reactors and some 200t more is produced each year. Waste from reprocessing of this fuel will be vitrified at Mayak and placed on long-term storage.

In November, Mayak also began reprocessing used fuel from submarines after it launched the new processing line. It has been recycling used fuel from VVER-440 light water reactors installed at power plans in Russia and abroad – something for many years as well as research reactor fuel. Preparation for processing uranium-beryllium fuel using the third production line took about five years and included not only modernisation of equipment, but also the development of a unique reprocessing technology, and techniques to manage the vitrified high-level radioactive waste. Mayak Deputy Director General for Strategic Development Dmitry Kolupayev said earlier that Mayak had an ambitious plan for the coming year and a half to two years to become the world’s only factory capable of recycling any type of used fuel.