ROSATOM Starts Construction of BREST-OD-300 Fast Neutron Reactor
The construction of a 300 MW nuclear power unit with an innovative lead coolant BREST-OD-300 fast reactor has begun at the site of the ROSATOM’s TVEL Fuel Company’s Siberian Chemical Combine in Seversk in Russia’s Tomsk region. According to the planned timeline, the BREST-OD-300 reactor should start operating in 2026. A fuel production facility will be built by 2023 and the construction of an irradiated fuel reprocessing module is scheduled to start by 2024.
The reactor will run on mixed uranium-plutonium nitride fuel (MNUP fuel), specially developed for this facility (it is considered to be the optimal solution for fast reactors). The power plant will make an integral part of the Pilot Demonstration Energy Complex (PDEC) – a cluster of three interconnected unique facilities, including the nuclear fuel production plant (for fabrication and refabrication), the BREST-OD-300 power unit, and the facility for irradiated fuel reprocessing. For the first time in history, a nuclear power plant powered by a fast reactor will be built alongside closed nuclear fuel cycle servicing enterprises on one site. After reprocessing, the irradiated fuel from the reactor will be sent for refabrication (i.e. reproduction into fresh fuel), thereby giving this system the means to gradually become practically autonomous and independent of external resources supplies.
The advantage of fast reactors is their ability to efficiently use the fuel cycle’s secondary byproducts (in particular, plutonium) for energy production. At the same time as having a high regeneration factor, fast reactors can produce more potential fuel than they consume and also burn out (i.e. use in the process of energy generation) highly active transuranic elements (actinides). The design of the BREST-OD-300 lead-cooled reactor is based on the principles of so-called natural safety. The features of the reactor made it possible to abandon the melt trap, a large volume of support systems, and also to lower the safety class of the non-reactor equipment. The integral design and physics of the reactor facility make enable to exclude accidents requiring evacuation of the population. In the future, such installations should not only enhance the safety of nuclear power, but also make it more economically competitive in comparison with the most efficient thermal power generation (in particular, steam-gas technology).
The BREST-OD-300 reactor will provide itself with its main energy component, plutonium-239, reproducing it from the isotope uranium-238, which has a relative abundance of more than 99% (it is the isotope uranium-235, which makes about 0.7% of natural uranium, that is currently used to produce energy in thermal reactors). The introduction of such technologies will increase exponentially the efficiency of natural uranium. Uranium has about a 86% share in the world reserves of energy resources, compared to coal at 8%, oil at 3%, and gas at 3%.
The experimental demonstration power complex is being built within the framework of Rosatom’s strategic project “Breakthrough,” (Proryv) which is aimed at creating a new technological platform for nuclear energy. Russia’s strategy in the sector entails the creation of a two-component nuclear power industry with thermal and fast neutron reactors and a closed nuclear fuel cycle. This envisages the widespread introduction of technologies for the recycling of nuclear materials, which would not only make it possible to expand the nuclear power industry’s raw material base many times over, but also solve the problem of accumulating spent fuel and nuclear waste, i.e. it would reuse SNF products instead of storing them and radically reduce the volume of waste generation in the industry.