Construction has started of a pilot plant for the production of fuel for the experimental lead-cooled BREST-300 fast reactor to be built at the Siberian Chemical Combine (SCC) in Russia.
The Tomsk region that hosts the SCC signed an agreement with state nuclear company Rosatom in September 2012. It specified that a demonstration BREST-300 unit would be built at the site, along with the manufacturing facility for the dense nitride uranium-plutonium fuel that it would need. The overall project is expected to cost some RUB 102 billion ($3 billion).
Speaking at the recent Forum of Young Scientists U-NOVUS in Tomsk, Rosatom deputy director general Vyacheslav Pershukov announced that construction of the fuel plant began at the end of March.
The plant is scheduled to begin operating in 2017, in time to produce the first fuel load for the BREST-300 reactor which is scheduled to start up in 2020. Construction of the reactor is set to begin in 2016. A reprocessing facility is expected to come online at SCC in 2022, closing the fuel cycle loop for the reactor.
Fast reactor development
BREST refers to bystry reaktor so svintsovym teplonositelem, Russian for 'fast reactor with lead coolant'. Its core would measure about 2.3 metres in diameter by 1.1 metres in height and contain 16 tonnes of fuel. The unit would be refuelled every year with each fuel element spending five years in total within the core.
Russia already uses a BN-series fast reactor for power production at Beloyarsk with another about to start operation and more proposed for several other sites. However, the BREST design is seen as a successor to the BN-series and the 300 MWe unit at the SCC could be the forerunner to a 1200 MWe version for wide deployment as a commercial power generation unit.
As well as the forthcoming reactor, the SCC already hosts a uranium enrichment plant with capacity of 3 million separative work units per year. This is complimented by a mixed-oxide (MOX) fuel plant, while a uranium conversion plant is also being built and planned for operation after 2016 to meet all Russian demand.