MOX production plant to be built in Mayak

Publish date: March 17, 1997

Written by: Thomas Nilsen

Russia is planning to set up a fabrication plant for mixed uranium-plutonium fuel (MOX), in co-operation with France and Germany. The plant will utilise weapons-grade plutonium as raw material. Initally three MOX fuel assemblies are to be tested at the Balakovo Nuclear power plant.

The plant, to be put up at Mayak with an expected annual capacity of around 1.3 tons of plutonium, could be operational by year 2000. The first contracts on MOX delivery could be entered this year, based on a detailed French-Russian study conducted in 1993-1996, according to Nuclear Enginrering International.

Russian scientists are evaluating use of MOX in sivilian Russian nuclear power plants. There is a special interest in MOX-fuel for the new generation fast-breeder reactors (BN-800) planned to be implemented at Beloyarsk (one unit) and South-Ural Nuclear Power Plants (three units). The plans also include production of MOX fuel assemblies for VVER-reactors.

The new MOX plant will be the fifth such facility at Mayak. The first pilot facility operated during the 1960s and 1970s, using approximately one ton of weapons grade plutonium to produce test fuel assemblies for fast breeding research reactors. Today, all the four former production facilities are closed down.

For some years, there has been close co-operation between France and Russia, on the French fast-breeder Super-Phenix and the fast breeder reactor at the Beloyarsk nuclear power plant. It is not that obvious why Germany is joining in on the Mayak plans.