Nuclear incident at Novosibirsk Chemical Concentrates Plant

Publish date: May 21, 1997

Written by: Igor Kudrik

On May 15, Novosibirsk Fuel Pellets Fabrication Plant (Zavod Khimkonsentratov joint-stock company) located in eastern Siberia, suffered an incident. A spontaneous chain reaction started to develop in one of the tanks containing 650 litres of Uranium solutions. At one point the intensity of exposure within 0,5 metres from the tank reached 0,1 Sv/hour.

According to the Russian State Nuclear Inspection (Gosatomnadzor), the chain reaction was stopped by using liquid neutron absorbers. By the end of this operation the exposure was reduced to 0,07 mSv/hour. No discharge of radioactivity into the environment was detected, and no workers were exposed to high doses of radiation, reports a Gosatomnadzor official. The reasons to the incident are not identified yet.

Novosibirsk Zavod Khimkonsentratov joint stock company was established in 1949 to produce fuel elements for 13 plutonium production reactors located in Chelyabinsk-65, Tomsk-7 and Krasnoyarsk-26. It also used highly enriched uranium recovered from the plutonium reactor fuel to make cores for tritium production reactors. It later used fuel pellets from Kazakhstan to produce fuel pins and assemblies for various reactors, but specialised in fuel for research reactors and VVER-1000s. Today the plant produces the fuel pellets for these assemblies. Apparently the tank which suffered the incident contained highly enriched uranium for fabrication of fuel for research reactors, with an enrichmentlevel of up to 26%.