Russia to supply HEU fuel for China's CFR-600 fast reactor

Rosatom's TVEL and CNLY, a subsidiary of China's CNNC corporation, signed a contract for supply of fuel for China's CFR-600 fast neutron reactor. Under the contract, TVEL will provide fuel for the initial load of CFR-600 and then will supply fuel for reloads during the first seven years of the reactor operation. The agreement on fuel supply was reached during the June 2018 summit meeting.

Although the report does not say it explicitly, the fuel in question will be HEU fuel, manufactured by the Electrostal Plant. Russia is already supplying HEU fuel (with enrichment of 64.4%) to China's Experimental Fast Reactor, CFER. It provided fuel for the initial load of that reactor, which reached criticality in 2010, and then signed two contracts to continue supply - in October 2013 and in December 2016.

Construction of the CFR-600 reactor began in December 2017. It is not clear to what extent CFR-600 will use Russian technology. Back in 2009, Russia and China started discussions of a potential sale of two BN-800 reactors to China, but that plan did not materialize, reportedly because of concerns about technology transfer.

CFR-600 is designed to use either uranium or MOX fuel. However, it appears that the reactor will begin to operate with HEU. The reactor is likely to use HEU with enrichment similar to that used in the BN-600 reactor, which used uranium fuel with enrichment of 17%, 21%, and 26%. In 2012, Russia restarted production of HEU, partly to provide HEU for fast reactors in China.

[UPDATE 01/07/2020: The earlier version of the entry suggested that the reactor might use HEU with 64.4% enrichment, similar to that of CFER. However, because of the larger active zone, CFR-600 is likely to use HEU with lower enrichment.]