The nuclear fuel of the future is being tested at the Balakovo NPP

An extensive maintenance campaign has been completed at the Balakovo NPP’s 3rd power block. Large-scale works have been delivered to upgrade the equipment that will make the power block safer and more reliable. Two steam generators have been replaced in order to improve the heat and pressure drop characteristics of the reactor facility, thus making the NPP safe for another designed term.

This is the third fuel cycle at the 3rd power block trial running the innovative REMIX (regenerated mixture) fuel produced in Russia. The benefit of this fuel is that it helps reduce the consumption of natural uranium in nuclear power.

In 2016, in addition to the standard fuel assemblies, special ones were placed into the 3rd power block’s reactor core, each of these special assemblies containing both ordinary uranium fuel elements (312 units) and six REMIX fuel units. The pilot production is still under way.

‘The developers estimate that we might save around 22% of the natural uranium’, Vladimir Dergachev, the head of nuclear safety and reliability department, said. ‘The neutron spectrum of the REMIX fuel is no different from the one of the ordinary uranium fuel. This means that it can be used in standard reactors without making any additional changes to their structure or taking any additional safety precautions – which is another strong advantage of this new type of fuel’.

The REMIX fuel is a unique initiative brought forward by the V.G. Khlopin Radium Institute. The new fuel elements are technically no different from the existing uranium dioxide-based fuel with the maximum input enrichment of 5%. The strategic goal of the prospective REMIX fuel introduction is to close the nuclear fuel cycle.

In 2021, following the unloading from the reactor, the heat assemblies with the innovative fuel will be moved to the spent fuel pond for 1.5 years for afterpower downturn. In 2023, these will be delivered to the Research Institute of Atomic Reactors in Dimitrovgrad for further investigation. 

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