800 MW fast neutron russian breeder reactor is fully powered up

Rosenergoatom engineers brought to criticality Beloyarsk 4 – a 789 MWe fast-neutron reactor of the BN-800 design – while its parent Rosatom honoured the operators who commissioned the 5 MWe Obinsk reactor on the same day in 1954.

Beloyarsk 4 is fuelled by a mix of uranium and plutonium oxides arranged to produce new fuel material as it burns. Its capacity exceeds that of the world’s second most powerful fast reactor – 560 Mwe Beloyarsk 3. Russia plans to build a BN-1200 fast reactor power unit at Beloyarsk to start up by 2020.

Two BN-800 reactors in China, referred to by CIAE as ‘project 2’ Chinese Demonstration Fast Reactors (CDFR), had scheduled construction to start in 2013 and commissioning 2018-19. These would be similar to the OKBM Afrikantov design being built at Beloyarsk 4. In contrast to the intention in Russia, these will use ceramic MOX fuel pellets

The Russian BN-600 fast breeder reactor at Beloyarsk has been supplying electricity to the grid since 1981 and has the best operating and production record of all Russia’s nuclear power units. It uses uranium oxide fuel and the sodium coolant delivers 550°C at little more than atmospheric pressure. The BN 350 FBR operated in Kazakhstan for 27 years and about half of its output was used for water desalination. Russia plans to reconfigure the BN-600 to burn the plutonium from its military stockpiles.

Advanced FNRs include the following:

The first BN-800, a new more powerful (880 MWe gross, 2100 MWt) FBR from OKBM with improved features is being built at Beloyarsk. It has considerable fuel flexibility – U+Pu nitride, MOX, or metal, and with breeding ratio up to 1.3. With three loops, outlet primary coolant temperature is 547ºC and steam temperature 470ºC. Service life is 40 years. It has much enhanced safety and improved economy – while capital cost is 20% more than VVER-1200, operating cost is expected to be only 15% more than VVER. It is capable of burning 1.7 to 2 tonnes of plutonium per year from dismantled weapons and will test the recycling of minor actinides in the fuel. The BN-800 has been sold to China, and two units are due to start construction there in 2013.

However, the BN-800 is likely to be the last such reactor design built (outside India’s thorium program), with a fertile blanket of depleted uranium around the core. Further fast reactors will have an integrated core to minimise the potential for weapons proliferation from bred Pu-239.

The BN-1200 is being designed by OKBM for operation with MOX fuel from 2020 and dense nitride U-Pu fuel subsequently, in closed fuel cycle. Rosatom plans to submit the BN-1200 to the Generation IV International Forum (GIF) as a Generation IV design. The BN-1200 will produce 2900 MWt (1220 MWe), has a 60-year design life, simplified refuelling, and burn-up of up to 120 GWd/t. Intermediate heat exchanger temperature 550°C, with 527°C in secondary sodium circuit and 510°C outlet at 14 MPa from steam generators. Lead coolant is also a possibility. Thermal efficiency is 42% gross, 39% net. It is expected to have a breeding ratio of 1.2 initially and up to 1.35 for MOX fuel, and then 1.45 for nitride fuel. Fuel burn-up is designed to progress from 14.3% to 21%. It will have 426 fuel assemblies and 174 radial blanket assemblies surrounded by 599 boron shielding assemblies. The capital cost is expected to be much the same as VVER-1200. OKBM envisages about 11 GWe of such plants by 2030, possibly including South Urals NPP. Design is expected to be complete in 2014, and tentative plans are for construction of the first unit at Beloyarsk from 2015 with commercial operation from 2020. It is intended to produce electricity at RUR 0.65/kWh (US 2.23 cents/kWh). This is part of a federal Rosatom program, the Proryv (Breakthrough) Project.

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