Russia’s Rosatom is positioning itself to lead research and testing for Generation IV fast neutron reactors, including high temperature gas-cooled, molten salt, and lead-bismuth designs. Following an update of plans released by Rosatom in June, Dan Yurman fills in the details. It is creating an International Research Centre and has signed up four partnering nations so far – the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, and Slovakia. The R&D facility is due to be operational in 2025, though that is five years later than first planned. It will use its 150MWt multi-purpose fast neutron research reactor (MBIR), currently under construction. Yurman says the timing of the announcement may be a response to U.S. plans, revealed in May, for its own Advanced Reactor Demonstration Program, aimed at upgrading the nation’s support for the development of advanced reactors. Though unloved in some parts of the world, these nations are making plans for the next generation of nuclear technology.
Rosatom, the Russian state nuclear corporation, is promoting the use of its multi-purpose fast neutron research reactor (MBIR) which is under construction at the Research Institute of Atomic Reactors (NIIAR) in Dimitrovgrad in the Ulyanovsk region of Russia, located about 1,600 miles east of Moscow. The state owned enterprise is hawking its capabilities and soliciting partnerships on an international scale.
It is creating an International Research Center (IRC) to be a home for cooperative R&D and test projects. According to the June 2020 briefing, four nations have signed up so far – the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, and Slovakia. The briefing says these arrangements, and others like it, will support the IRC’s ambitions to become a world class centre of excellence for testing materials to be used in fast neutron reactors.
The test reactor: main tasks
The purpose of the MBIR construction effort is to have a high-flux fast test reactor with unique capabilities to implement the following tasks:
- in-pile tests and post-irradiation examination,
- production of heat and electricity,
- testing of new technologies for the radioisotopes, and;
- modified materials production.
Generation IV fast neutron reactors
MBIR will be used for materials testing for Generation IV fast neutron reactors including high temperature gas-cooled, molten salt, and lead-bismuth designs. Experiments that are proposed to be undertaken include measuring the performance of core components under normal and emergency conditions.
Operational in 2025
In mid-June Rosatom released details of a government briefing that indicated the R&D facility will be operational in 2025. The project broke ground in 2015 and was scheduled to be finished in 2020. According to a 2018 progress report, that date has been pushed back by five years, but did not give a reason for the delay. The project is expected to cost $1.1 billion.
The MBIR is a 150 MWt multi-loop sodium-cooled fast research reactor. It will have a design life of up to 50 years, and will use MOX fuel. When complete it will replace the BOR-60 fast reactor which has been in operation at NIIAR since 1969.
U.S. advanced reactor development plans
Russia’s June 2020 announcement may be a competitive response to the May 2020 U.S. announcement of $230m in funding as the first step in a multi-year commitment through the Advanced Reactor Demonstration Program to upgrade the nation’s capabilities to support development of advanced reactors. A key facility will be the versatile test reactor.
It will have three different development and demonstration pathways.
- Advanced reactor demonstrations, which are expected to result in a fully functional advanced nuclear reactor within seven years of the award.
- Risk reduction for future demonstrations, which will support up to five additional teams resolving technical, operational, and regulatory challenges to prepare for future demonstration opportunities.
- Advanced reactor concepts 2020 (ARC 20), which will support innovative and diverse designs with potential to commercialise in the mid-2030s.
The project will be housed at the National Reactor Innovation Center (NRIC) at the Idaho National Laboratory. The NRIC will provide private sector technology developers the necessary support to test and demonstrate their reactor concepts and assess their performance. This will help accelerate the licensing and commercialisation of these new nuclear energy systems.
Dan Yurman is the author of Neutron Bytes and writes on nuclear matters
This article is published with permission