Russia Accelerates Efforts to Build Advanced Nuclear Reactors

Under a government decree published in early August, Russia will build up to 11 new nuclear reactors by 2030, including two BN-1200 sodium-cooled fast-neutron reactors.

Russia already has 36 operating reactors with a capacity of 27 GW, a fleet characterized by an assortment of reactor designs. According to the World Nuclear Association, four early VVER-440/230s are due to be decommissioned by 2020. The nation also has two later VVER-440 models, 12 VVER-1000 reactors, and a Gen III+ VVER-1200, which was put online on August 5 (Figure 1). Along with its VVERs, Russia has 12 RBMK light-water graphite-moderated reactors (the same design used at Chernobyl), four small graphite-moderated boiling-water reactors (due to be decommissioned in 2022), and two fast breeder reactors, the BN-600 and BN-800 (the latter of which came online last December).

advanced nuclear

1. Atomic heavyweight. Russia’s state-owned nuclear giant Rosatom put Unit 6 at the Novovoronezh II nuclear power plant online August 5. The third-generation VVER-1200 pressurized-water reactor is the first of two units planned for the plant. Courtesy: Rosatom

Approved by the Ministry of Energy, the August 1 decree calls for the construction of 11 new reactors, not including those that are already under construction at Kaliningrad, Leningrad, Novovoronezh, and Rostov, or Russia’s floating reactor Academician Lomonosov. Many of the planned projects are first-of-their-kind models.

The decree calls for construction of BN-1200 fast breeder reactors at the Beloyarsk and South Urals nuclear plants, based on experience from Russia’s 789-MW Beloyarsk 4, which piloted the BN-800 design. It also approves construction of an experimental VVER-600 unit for the Kola plant, and seven VVER-TOI units—based on a design introduced in 2010 by Atomenergoproekt—at Kola II, Smolensk II, Nizhny Novgorod, Kostroma, and Tatar. Additionally, it approves the start of construction of the BREST-OD-300 fast-neutron reactor by 2025, as well as a facility to produce high-density mixed uranium-plutonium nitride fuel for the advanced reactor that will feature a closed nuclear fuel cycle.

—Sonal Patel, associate editor