While a formal decision by Russia on whether to build a prototype large commercial sodium-cooled fast neutron reactor – the BN-1200 – still officially rests on the successful performance of the small BN-800, which recently began operation at unit 4 of the Beloyarsk NPP, all the indications suggest that the project will go ahead. The BN-1200 will be built at Beloyarsk unit 5. The chief designer of the BN-1200 project, JSC OKBM Afrikantov (part of state nuclear corporation Rosatom) has commissioned work to secure a multi-criteria comparative analysis of the project, establishing a programme of research and development and a roadmap for its implementation, road implementation. This work should be completed by spring of 2017, according to Rosatom’s procurement website on 7 October.
The work will include systematization of data on the cost of the fuel component of the project, and a comparison of energy technologies to analyse the competitiveness of the BN-1200 in relation to other types of power generation. The "road map" will consider a set of interrelated activities at the main stages of project development, including contracting, research, development, coordination and approval of necessary documentation, permits and licences, production and transportation of equipment, installation of equipment, commissioning and start-up of the unit, and staff training.
The main purpose of the focus on fast reactors is closure of the nuclear fuel cycle including more efficient use of fuel and reduction in waste, including the burning of hazardous radionuclides. This is being explored through the Proryv (Breakthrough) project based at the Siberian chemical combine (SCC) in Seversk, where a demonstration project is being developed based on a lead-cooled fast reactor – Brest 300 – which will have its fuel fabrication and reprocessing facilities on site. These will be innovative and will include the development of dense nitride mixed uranium-plutonium (mox) fuel and a new reprocessing/recycling technology.
In addition at the Mining and Chemical Combine (MCC) in Zheleznogorsk an industrial scale plant has been built for the production of mox fuel for use in fast reactors and a pilot demonstration reprocessing plant is being completed to deal with the used fuel from the BN-800.
Vladimir Troyanov, chief production engineer of the Breakthrough project, told a round table on fast reactors on the sidelines of the 60th General Conference of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in Vienna in September that it was planned for the BN-1200 to begin operation in 2027. He said that by 2019 the BN-800 would be fully fuelled by mox – it currently uses both uranium oxide and mox fuel. From 2020-2023 it will begin to also burn neptunium and americium actinides (extracted from high-level wastes). Reprocessing of its used uranium oxide fuel will begin at MCC in 2018 and plutonium recycling will begin in 2024.