New Russian icebreakers will use HEU fuel

Despite the earlier plans to use LEU fuel in reactors that will power its new icebreakers, Russia has apparently decided to develop HEU fuel for these reactors. The "integrated propulsion unit" with a nuclear reactor, known as RITM-200, was developed by the Afrikantov OKBM design bureau in Nizhniy Novgorod. The unit will be installed on icebreakers of the Project 22220 series (referred to as UAL, Universal Atomic Icebreaker, in Rosatom documents). The lead ship of this class, Arktika, is expected to enter service in 2018, followed by two more ships, Sibir and Ural.

In 2012, OKBM reported that it was working on a technical design of two types of "active zones" or cores - 14-15-1 with an "intermetallic fuel" and 14-15-2 with "metal-ceramic fuel" (OKBM 2012 Annual report, p. 26). In its 2013 annual report the TVEL corporation described the 14-15-1 and 14-15-2 cores as "HEU intermetallic" and "LEU metal-ceramic" respectively. In 2016, TVEL reported that it completed the production and "acceptance tests" of the 14-15-1 core (TVEL 2016 Annual report, p. 83). First fuel assemblies were produced by the MSZ Plant in Electrostal in July 2017. It appears that these are the HEU fuel elements of the 14-15-1 core and that the Arktika icebreaker will begin operations with HEU fuel. The enrichment of the HEU used in icebreaker fuel is not known.

It is worth noting that in announcing its decisions to resume production of HEU in 2012, TVEL referred to "a number of new projects, in particular, related to icebreakers."