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Agency completes first Osart mission at BN-800 fast neutron reactor

The IAEA team reviewed operational safety at Beloyarsk-4 BN-800 fast neutron reactor. Courtesy Rosatom.

The operator of the Beloyarsk nuclear power station in Russia has shown a commitment to operational safety, but further improvements are needed in areas including accident management and safety assessments, an International Atomic Energy Agency team said.

The operational safety review team (Osart) mission ran from 6 to 23 November. The team reviewed operational safety at Beloyarsk-4, a BN-800 fast neutron reactor with design capacity of 820 MW and gross electrical capacity of 885 MW.

The team reviewed operating practices at Unit 4 in leadership and management for safety, training and qualification, operations, maintenance, technical support, radiation protection, chemistry and accident management.

The team said plant operator Beloyarsk NPP, a subsidiary of state nuclear operator Rosenergoatom, should consider enhancing its accident management programme to include the full range of “beyond design” external hazards for all modes and states of operation and all fuel locations on site.

It should consider extending the scope of its probabilistic safety assessments to ensure that all potential failure scenarios are identified.

Beloyarsk NPP should also consider improving the effectiveness of the checks carried out during field operator walkdowns, so all deficiencies and adverse conditions are identified.

The Beloyarsk nuclear station, owned by state nuclear corporation Rosatom, is at Zarechny, near Yekaterinburg in central Russia. The station consists of four units. Units 1 and 2 – both light water graphite reactors – are permanently shut down. Unit 3 is a BN-600 fast neutron reactor with net design capacity of 560 MW and gross electrical capacity of 600 MW.

The IAEA said Russia has 37 nuclear power reactors in operation, providing almost 20% of the country’s total electrical production. It has three plants under construction, the Generation IV Brest-OD-300 lead-cooled fast reactor, Kursk 2-1 and Kursk 2-2.

“It is the first time an IAEA Osart mission was held at the power unit of a BN-800 fast neutron reactor,” said Ivan Sidorov, director of Beloyarsk NPP.

“For three weeks, the reviewers and the counterparts have worked hard, performing dozens of plant tours, interviews and observations, and analysing plant documentation for all reviewing areas.

“We appreciate the reviewers’ professional point of view, and we are ready to learn from their experience to improve safety at Beloyarsk NPP.”

Background: BN-800 Running On MOX

In September 2022, Russia said Beloyarsk-4 had been fully loaded for the first time with commercial mixed oxide uranium-plutonium (MOX) fuel.

State nuclear fuel company Tvel said full conversion of the BN-800 to MOX fuel was a long-anticipated milestone for the nuclear industry.

The BN-800 was developed to run on MOX and Rosatom built a unique MOX fuel fabrication facility as part of its plans to close the nuclear fuel cycle.

The MOX fuel used at the BN-800 was made of a mixture of depleted uranium oxides accumulated from state enterprises and from plutonium oxides separated during the reprocessing of spent nuclear fuel. MOX fuel can also use weapons-grade plutonium from military sources.

Recycling fissile material in this way is known as closing the nuclear fuel cycle. The overall toxicity, fissile content and volume of the waste produced is reduced while the fissionable residuals are recycled for energy production.

MOX fuel is not produced in the US, but several European countries have been producing it for more than 20 years. Their supply of plutonium is from spent nuclear fuel rather than nuclear weapons.

The core of the Beloyarsk-4 BN-800 fast neutron reactor being loaded for the first time with commercial MOX fuel. Courtesy Tvel.

Date: Saturday, 25 November 2023
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