Rosatom set to manufacture MOX fuel at Zheleznogorsk

Rosatom officially designated the Mining and Chemical Combine at Zheleznogorsk as the site for the future MOX fuel production facility, which will manufacture fuel for BN-800 reactor. This process may involve weapon-grade plutonium that Russia committed for disposition as part of the U.S.-Russian Plutonium Management and Disposition Agreement. It also appears that the U.S. funds can be used to finance construction of the facility.

The Zheleznogorsk plant will probably use a new technology in which fuel elements contain vibrocompacted MOX granules. Earlier plans suggested that the role of Zheleznogorsk would be limited to producing the granules, which manufacturing of the fuel elements will be done by the NIIAR institute at Dimitrovgrad. It is not clear if the current decision changed this arrangement.

Although according to Rosatom plans the new plant will produce its first fuel in 2012, it is possible that BN-800, which is expected to begin operations in 2014, will not use Zheleznogorsk fuel in its first zone. Rosatom considers a possibility of the first zone using assemblies of three different types - uranium-based, tablet MOX, and about 100 assemblies that will contain vibrocompacted MOX granules. It is possible that all 100 new-type assemblies will be produced at NIIAR. The tablet MOX fuel will be produced at Mayak. Apparently, at this point Rosatom is not certain if BN-800 would be able to use vibrocompacted fuel in the entire core.