Russia launches production line to supply uranium fuel for China's CFR-600 reactor

The MSZ Plant in Electrostal, near Moscow (part of the TVEL division of Rosatom), set up a production line that will manufacture uranium fuel for China's CFR-600 fast neutron reactor. According to the fuel supply contact that was signed in December 2018, TVEL will provide fuel for the initial load and then for reloads during first seven years of CFR-600 operation. The production line will also manufacture fuel for Russia's BN-600 reactor and for China's CEFR reactor. The first shipment of CFR-600 fuel is expected in 2023, when the reactor is expected to begin operations.

While the official sources do not specify the level of enrichment of uranium in fuel, at least some of it will contain HEU. Russia's BN-600 reactor uses uranium fuel with three levels of enrichment - 17%, 21%, and 26%. It was reported earlier that CEFR fuel contains uranium with 64.4% enrichment. It is likely that CFR-600 will use HEU in some of its fuel elements as well, with enrichment similar to that of BN-600.

Russia has already supplied fuel for the CEFR reactor, which was reloaded in 2020. That fuel was also manufactured by MSZ, although at a different production line.

It appears that China plans to switch CFR-600 to plutonium-based fuel after 2030. It planned to begin irradiation of MOX fuel assemblies in CEFR in 2018 (or even in 2015), but it appears that the plan has been reconsidered.

In December 2020, China began construction of a second CFR-600 reactor, which is expected to begin operations in 2026. At this point it is not clear whether the reactor will start with HEU fuel and whether Russia will supply fuel for it as well.

Plutonium for the CFR-600 program is likely to be separated at two reprocessing plants that are currently under construction at Jinta, located near Jiuquan city of Gansu province. Construction of the first plant with the capacity of 200 MTHM/year began in 2015. A second 200 MTHM/year plant (Project II) appears to have begun in the late 2020 or early 2021. Jinta is also the site of a MOX fuel fabrication facility with the projected capacity of 20 MT of fuel per year. This combination of two reprocessing plants and a MOX facility appears to be sufficient to support operations of two CFR-600 reactors when they switch to MOX fuel.