Vladimir Poplavsky is the deputy director general of SSC RF IPPE (State Scientific Center of the RF- Institute for Physics and Power Engineering)
There are many disputes in Russia and in the world that uranium reserves are limited. What do you think how it will effect on development of nuclear power? What position will fast reactors take place in this case?
Actually, the reserves of uranium like any other mineral raw are limited. The point is how far this restriction is spread - whether it concerns the near-term or long-term perspective?
Now there is a growth of interest in nuclear power that is connected with consideration of limited power sources - coal, oil, gas.
It is also important that while "Chernobyl syndrome" is disappearing, the inhabitants start to trust nuclear power.
There is another factor connected with ecological situation. Naturally everybody realizes the changes in climate. Ecological safety of nuclear power at normal operation is also one of the factors, which makes us to pay particular attention to NPPs.
It concerns the majority of countries in the world. Even those countries, which once declared the restriction of nuclear power or its full shut down, now don't realize their promises to shut down NPPs. In the first instance these are Germany, Sweden, where nuclear power continues to function.
As it is known, recently the Federal target program has been approved in Russia aimed at developing nuclear power and increasing its capacities. We must achieve 25-30% share of nuclear power in total electricity production by 2030.
I believe that nuclear renaissance for Russian is also due to the fact that we are the largest suppliers of organic fuel abroad, so nuclear power can successfully replace these capacities.
Regarding to fast reactor theme, it is necessary to note that traditionally we connect the necessity of development and implementation of fast reactor technology into nuclear power structure with limited resources of uranium.
At present the reserves of nuclear fuel in Russia in terms of natural uranium are estimated at the level of 600 thousand tons.
It is not a big ammount if to consider that we should develop not only own nuclear power, but export NPPs abroad. If we export NPP abroad, we have to supply fuel for it. Needs in uranium can be doubled taking into account export. So 600 thousand tons - is not so much. Don't forget that each built unit should be operated during 60 years and provided by nuclear fuel.
I think if nuclear power develops with the pace planned, we won't have a shortage of uranium up to the middle of the age. Certainly, this estimation is "floating". Three years ago we thought that we would feel the lack of uranium by 2030, but now this border shifted a little to the future.
Obviously, when using fast reactors widely, they will solve practically the problem of fuel supply of nuclear power at the expense of their unique property - to breed nuclear fuel. Don't forget that only fast reactor can meet all requirements specified to future nuclear power.
If nuclear power should be safe and competitive, has ecological closed fuel cycle and meet the non-proliferation requirements - it is nuclear power with fast reactors.
Do you see the difference between various types of fast reactors - sodium cooled, lead cooled etc?
Physics of these reactors is approximately the same. But technology of reactor is defined in many ways by choosing coolant (sodium, lead or lead-bismuth) and certainly, they differ from each other by technology.
Up to now fast reactors with sodium coolant have been developed in Russia and in the world. This direction is developed sufficiently. So, BN-600 reactor demonstrates positive and reliable operation during 27 years. We believe that at present the technology of fast sodium cooled reactors is substantiated from the viewpoint of both serviceability and safety. Today the point is to improve its economic indices so that this system would be competitive not only "inside" nuclear power, but in comparison with other power sources. Today there is a task to develop NPP project with large power fast sodium cooled reactor, which should be both safe and economy.
If to say about technology of heavy coolants, as it is known, there is certain experience of using lead-bismuth eutectic in reactor for atomic submarine. But if we are going to say about development of this technology for its use at stationary power plant, we have to take into account many of its features.
In order to demonstrate serviceability of reactors with heavy liquid metal coolant, joint project between IPPE, OKBM and GIDROPRESS is under development - SVBR-75/100 reactor.
If possible, please, tell us a few words about this reactor. Is it suggested that this direction will replace BN-reactors or it will be realized in parallel with sodium direction?
Today we consider that the following concept should be realized. BN-reactors with sodium coolant are for "large" nuclear power. For example, these are BN-800 reactor and reactors of large power: 1600 MW (el.), 1800 MW (el.). These technologies have good perspectives and possess good economic indices. In the last twenty years during discussion of BN-800 construction we didn't stop and developed a lot of new engineering approaches, which allow to improve economy of fast reactors with sodium. Now we are trying to demonstrate it in the projects of large power reactors - so called "BN - commercial" reactor.
Thus, sodium is a niche for large capacities. As to reactors with lead-bismuth coolant, at present it is a category of regional power able to work in autonomous regions not having connections with the Unified Energy System of Russia. This is a middle power, up to 75 100 MW (el.), which will occupy its niche in power supply of small regions. Obviously, here we don't exclude the use of other reactor types of small and middle power.
It means that SVBR is the reactor for the east regions of Russia?
No, this technology can be used in different regions. We say that they are designed for production electricity and heat for separate regions, may be for some cities. If necessary, SVBR can be located both on the Far East and on the North, and in the central parts of Russia depending on where they will be required.
We don't oppose SVBR to sodium reactor, since these two technologies have own advantages and disadvantages.
Is export option of SVBR possible?
Export option is possible, if we master this technology. The fact is we have only SVBR-75/100 on paper and some R&D work in justification of this technology. In order to say that we mastered SVBR technology, we should begin the construction of demonstrational reactor, which will show its reliability and safety. After this we can say about series, about export options, options for using in Russia.
Please tell us a few words about economy. What is relationship between BN reactor and VVER reactor directions?
I would say so. Today BN-reactor technologies are simplified, but VVER-technologies are complicated due to necessity of increasing its safety. There is a certain leveling of the cost of kW for these two reactors.
Is it reasonable only for BN-reactor with uranium fuel or for fast reactors with MOX-fuel as well?
Up to now we realized only uranium option of BN-reactor. I think, a transition to MOX-fuel doesn't change strongly the fast reactor economic characteristics. The cost of fuel is defined not only by the cost of this fuel manufacture technology, but by the volume of its manufacture. Yes, at the first stages, when we have to manufacture subassemblies (SA) with MOX-fuel for BN-800 reactor in small volume, one can suppose that they would be more expansive that SA with uranium dioxide already developed and manufactured in mass volume. But with development of fast reactors and their mass implementation, growth of volume of uranium-plutonium SA production, the cost of nuclear fuel will be decreased and therefore the influence of fuel component on NPP economic characteristics will be decreased, as a whole.
DATE: August 23, 2007
Topics: Uranium, NFC, Spent Fuel, Russia, Fast breeders