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Rosatom to build world’s largest fast-neutron research reactor

The Russian state nuclear industry corporation Rosatom will build the world’s largest multipurpose fast-neutron reactor. Vyacheslav Pershukov, Rosatom’s Deputy Director General, Director for Innovation Management, made the statement during the online conference hosted by the BelTA website on 15 December.

Vyacheslav Pershukov reminded that a government program on new-generation nuclear energy technologies for 2010-2015 and for the period till 2020 had been adopted in Russia. The main purpose of the program is to develop nuclear technologies based on fast-neutron reactors with a closed nuclear fuel cycle in addition to improving the effectiveness of using natural uranium and irradiated nuclear fuel.

Rosatom’s Director for Innovation Management said that the modern nuclear energy industry all over the world relies on thermal-neutron reactors where water is used to slow down nuclear processes and as a heat transfer agent. If nuclear energy is to survive in a competitive fight with other energy resources, it is necessary to take nuclear energy to the next level. Steps need to be taken now to make the transition to a technological platform that relies on fast-neutron reactors, where liquid metal (sodium, lead) or an alloy of metals, for instance, lead-bismuth, will be used as the heat transfer agent.

“Rosatom scientists have completed a large series of research projects. It is now clear how we can make a fast-neutron reactor commercially appealing taking into account the need to close the nuclear fuel cycle, bury nuclear waste in a way to prevent an increase in natural background radiation, reduce the storage of spent nuclear fuel, and remove uranium from the nuclear fuel cycle. We know how to make such a reactor economically feasible even with present prices for hydrocarbon resources. Let me remind you that unlike its competition the Russian nuclear industry has not stopped the development of energy technologies based on fast neutrons. This is why we are now at the forefront of development in this field,” said Vyacheslav Pershukov.

The commissioning of the fast-neutron reactor BN-800 at the Beloyarsk nuclear power plant has been one of the most important events of this year. A BN-600 reactor with sodium as the heat transfer agent has been in experimental and industrial operation at the Beloyarsk nuclear power plant for over 30 years already. Unique experience has been accumulated. “The commissioning of the BN-800 reactor is another accomplishment of Rosatom as part of the program on developing fast reactors,” noted Vyacheslav Pershukov. “A BN-1200 reactor is the next step. I am convinced we will manage to build it.”

Fast-neutron reactors will take care of supplying enough fuel for the nuclear energy industry in the long term in addition to reducing the amount of nuclear waste that has piled up since the very start. “Besides, fast-neutron reactors can be used not only for generating electricity. They can be used for scientific research as well. In 2015 we started building a multipurpose fast-neutron reactor at premises of the Atomic Reactors Scientific Research Institute in Ulyanovsk Oblast. It was the largest reactor of the kind in the world. In other words, we are taking consistent steps to advance innovative energy technologies that will shape the future power engineering industry not only for Russia but for the entire mankind,” concluded Vyacheslav Pershukov.