April 19, 2007

Status of nuclear breeder reactors and reprocessing

There is a lot of reprocessing of nuclear waste (unburned uranium fuel). More in the UK according to wikipedia. Japan will be reprocessing at about half of the French rate this year. The Russians have an operating 560MW fast breeder and will complete an 800MW fast breeder in 2012. The Russians want to capture a lot of the nuclear reactor construction business and seem willing to build FBR for China, Japan and others.

COGEMA La Hague site, France1700 tonnes/year
Thorp nuclear fuel reprocessing plant at Sellafield, United Kingdom 900 tonnes/year
Rokkasho nuclear fuel reprocessing plant, Japan 800 tonnes/year
Mayak, Russia 400 tonnes/year
B205 at Sellafield, United Kingdom 1500 tonnes/year
Kalpakkam Atomic reprocessing plant, India 275 tonnes/year

About 8% of the nuclear waste (66000 tons/year) that is generated in the world each year is or can be reprocessed.

France's plutonium is shipped to the 120 t/yr Melox plant at Marcoule for prompt fabrication into mixed-oxide (MOX) fuel, which can be used in about 30 reactors in Europe.

Japan had a pilot reprocessing of 90/t year and this year starts up the 800t/year plant.

Japan has 6400 tonnes of uranium recovered from reprocessing and stored in France and the UK, where the reprocessing was carried out. In 2007 it was agreed that Russia's Atomenergoprom would enrich this for the Japanse utilities who own it.

At Tokai-mura, in Ibaraki prefecture north of Tokyo, Mitsubishi Nuclear Fuel Co Ltd operates a major fuel fabrication facility, which started up in 1972. Further fuel fabrication plants are operated by Nuclear Fuel Industries (NFI) in Tokai and Kumatori, and JAEA has some experimental mixed oxide (MOX) fuel facilities at Tokai for both the Fugen ATR and the FBR program, with capacity about 10 t/yr for each.

Also at Tokai, JNC (now JAEA) has operated a 90 t/yr pilot reprocessing plant which has treated 1116 tonnes of used fuel between 1977 and its final batch early in 2006. It will now focus on R&D, including reprocessing of MOX fuel. JAEA operates spent fuel storage facilities there and is proposing a further one. It has also operated a pilot high-level waste (HLW) vitrification plant at Tokai since 1995. Tokai is the main site of JAEA's R&D on HLW treatment and disposal.

Japan is in the final commissioning and commercial operation of JNFL's Rokkasho-mura reprocessing plant. Some 430 tonnes of used fuel will be put through the plant to test all aspects of its operation.

JNFL has applied for a licence to build and operate the 130 t/yr MOX plant. Construction of the US$ 1.2 billion plant is expected to begin in 2007 with operation about 2012.

The Rokkasha Maru 800 t/yr reprocessing plant will go into full production this year.

Fast Breeder Reactors(FBR)
The Russians have a functioning FBR of 560 MW. Beloyarsk 3.

The BN-800 Beloyarsk-4 fast reactor designed by OKBM is intended to replace the BN-600 unit 3 and the US$ 1.22 billion project may become international, with Japanese and Chinese involvement. Construction had been delayed by lack of funds, but the project resumed with adequate funding (of US$ 2.12 billion) for 2012 start-up and the foundations have been poured. The BN-800 fast neutron reactor being built by OKBM at Beloyarsk is designed to supersede the BN-600 unit there and utilise MOX fuel with both reactor-grade and weapons plutonium. Further BN-800 units are planned and a BN-1800 is being designed for operation from 2020. This represents a technological advantage for Russia and has significant export or collaborative potential with Japan.

Russia is plan and goal is to get 25-30% of the global nuclear power plant construction business.

Russia has the Mayak 400 t/yr RT-1 plant at Ozersk (Chelyabinsk-65) in the Urals.

Here is a European study of advanced nuclear reactor development activity. Pages 40-48 discuss the Renaissance of the Fast Sodium reactor.

India has a 1200MWth fast breeder which began construction in 2004 and should be done in 2010. It is first in a series of 3 identical reactos.

China has a 75 MWth FBR under construction scheduled for divergence in 2010. A large commercial reprocessing plant based on indigenous advanced technology is planned to follow and begin operation about 2020.


Anonymous said...

Thorp owners propose sending material from existing stockpiles of uranium, plutonium and vitrified waste ahead of completing reprocessing

The owners of THORP, the reprocessing plant in Cumbria, UK, are proposing to send back materials equivalent to products that would be formed from the reprocessing of their customers used fuel, prior to them actually carrying out the reprocessing. THORP takes used nuclear fuel and separates out the plutonium and uranium (which can be used as fuel again) from the nuclear waste products that have built up in the fuel.

THORP has been closed for two years while owners dealt with a small fracture in a pipe that lead to a leak of material into a highly radioactive part of the plant. It would have been very hard to repair the pipe so instead operations at THORP will be changed, and the owners (the Nuclear Decommissiong Authority - NDA) have been working to get approval for these changes from the Nuclear Installations Inspectorate, the UK's regulators.

This has meant THORP has fallen behind in its schedule of reprocessing, some of its customers may have already made arrangements for handling the reprocessed fuel and wastes that THORP was meant to supply. So the NDA are proposing to send uranium, plutonium and waste products from their stockpiles of material back to their customers, if they want it this early, even if they haven't actually reprocessed that customer's fuel.

The NDA have had to ask the Government's Department of Trade and Industry for approval for this, as approval has to be given for any change in THORP's contracts.