Russia partners with Czech companies for SVBR-100 fast neutron modular reactor

Russia’s Rosatom nuclear agency signed a deal to build a fast-neutron nuclear reactor on Russian territory in co-operation with 13 Czech companies. It is called the SVBR-100 project. Research and design work on the SVBR-100 reactor will continue until the end of 2014, while operations proper are set to begin in 2017. Potentially, it could take 10 to 15pc of the global nuclear energy market for small and medium-sized power stations.

“Fast reactors are the basis of our [global] competitiveness,” says Kiriyenko. “These include the fast-neutron reactors that already exist at Beloyarsk, lead-bismuthic reactors, lead reactors and other liquid metal coolants. All of these technologies will allow us to utilise the U-238 [highly enriched] isotope in the fuel cycle, which is abundantly available in nature but is currently almost unused.”

Russia previously announced a plan to invest RUR16 billion ($585 million) in the SVBR-100.

The SVBR-100 could be the first reactor cooled by heavy metal to generate electricity. It is described as a multi-function reactor for power, heat or desalination and a power station with 16 such modules would be expected to supply electricity at lower cost than any other new Russian technology, said AKME, while achieving inherent safety and high proliferation resistance.

The unit is described as an integral design because the steam generators and reactor core both sit in the same pool of coolant – lead-bismuth at temperatures in the range 340-490 deg C. It would be factory assembled and shipped to site in a module measuring 4.5 metres in diameter and 7.5 metres high ready to be placed within a tank of water that provides passive cooling and radiation shielding.

The SVBR concept has already run on seven Alfa-class submarines, as well as within experimental land-based installations, giving a total of about 80 reactor-years of operating experience. In 2009 AKME-Engineering was set up as a 50/50 joint venture between Russian state nuclear company Rosatom and Irkutskenergo of En+ Group, aimed at commercializing the technology.

It is designed to be able to use a wide variety of fuels, though the reference model uses uranium enriched to 16.5%. With U-Pu MOX fuel it would operate in closed cycle. Refuelling interval is 7-8 years. The SVBR-100 unit of 260-280 MWt would be factory-made and shipped, then installed in a tank of water which gives passive heat removal and shielding. A power station with 16 such modules is expected to supply electricity at lower cost than any other new Russian technology as well as achieving inherent safety and high proliferation resistance.

Russia separately has a major program to develop the BN series of fast reactors. The BN-350 prototype operated for 27 years in Kazakhstan, providing power for water desalination as well as the grid, while Beloyarsk 3 is a BN-600 in operation and Beloyarsk 4 is a BN-800 currently under construction.

Two more BN-800s will be built in China under an agreement signed in October 2009 and construction of the first should begin next year at Sanming in Fujian province. They will produce 880 MWe gross each

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