TVEL Fuel Company of ROSATOM organized the IAEA Technical Meeting on light water reactor fuel enrichment beyond the 5% limit. The international seminar brought together over 40 experts from 12 countries and IAEA.
The three-day discussions were attended by nuclear industry experts, including representatives of national regulatory bodies, nuclear power generation companies, nuclear fuel producers and research institutes. The participants discussed prospects for the use of high enriched fuel, fabrication technologies, trends in the development of new advanced fuels, as well as safety and licensing issues. The seminar was opened and partly moderated by Mr. Alexei Dolgov, Director of R&D Department at TVEL Fuel Company.
Participants of the event also attended a technical tour to the fuel fabrication facility of the TVEL Fuel Company– Machine-building Plant (MSZ PJSC) in Elektrostal, Moscow Region.
It was noted during the seminar that transition to the use of nuclear fuels for LWRs having enrichments beyond 5% limit in U-235 would allow to implement the 18-month fuel cycle based on reprocessed uranium with increased content of U-236 absorbing isotope, and in future to introduce tolerant fuel and the 24-month fuel cycle based on uranium-erbium fuel. In addition, an increase in the fuel enrichment limit will allow to improve fuel efficiency by reducing the amount of fuel recharge.
‘The possibility of using fissile material with high enriched uranium is crucially important for creating tolerant fuel with non-zirconium fuel rods, which absorb more neutrons than traditional zirconium alloys. Increased fuel enrichment will compensate for parasitic neutron absorption without reducing the duration of the fuel cycle’, Mr. Alexei Dolgov noted.
TVEL Fuel Company in cooperation The National Research Centre Kurchatov Institute, carried out a technical and economic feasibility study of the transition to the use of fuel with enrichment beyond 5% level in VVER-1000/1200 reactors. According to Russian experts, introduction of such fuel at nuclear power plants will require only minor improvements in the handling and storage of fresh and spent nuclear fuel. There will be no need to build additional nuclear fuel reprocessing facilities. Specialists from MSZ fuel fabrication facility estimate that not more than a quarter of the existing equipment will require modernization for the production of high enriched fuel.
‘It was generally accepted that high enriched fuel above 5% is a technically viable option to optimize the use of nuclear fuel material in LWRs. This could be further limited by current regulatory requirements imposed on nuclear fuel cycle facilities and spent fuel management. Expected challenges were identified and mitigation was also discussed during the meeting. My observation from the meeting was that fuel experts move forward on a right track by considering both economic benefits and safety requirements’, said Mr. Ki Seob Sim, Scientific Secretary of the IAEA Technical Meeting, IAEA's Division of Nuclear Fuel Cycle and Waste Technology.
TVEL Fuel Company of ROSATOM incorporates enterprises for the fabrication of nuclear fuel, conversion and enrichment of uranium, the production of gas centrifuges, as well as research and design organizations. It is the only supplier of nuclear fuel for Russian nuclear power plants. TVEL Fuel Company provides nuclear fuel for 72 power reactors in 14 countries, research reactors in eight countries, as well as transport reactors of the Russian nuclear fleet. Every sixth power reactor in the world operates on fuel manufactured by TVEL.