The Company traces its history back to December 27, 1945, when the USSR Council of People’s Commissars founded “OKB for the Design of Special Machines” as part of Gorky Artillery Plant No. 92 to solve the tasks under the Soviet Atomic Project. Starting from the late 1940s, OKB takes an active part in the development of the first production nuclear reactors.
In 1946–1947, along with launching the work on diffusion machines, OKB is developing an unloading mechanism for the first production A-reactor.
Over the period of 1946–1957, OKB developed a total of 25 types of diffusion machines and 9 of them were put into serial production.
In 1948, OKB is getting entirely involved into the development of a next uranium-graphite production reactor, OK-110. As the basis for the reactor design, the schematic of the first reactor was adopted. However, in the course of the design development, significant improvements were made to the schematic.
In 1950–1952, the three OK-110 reactors were built and commissioned. A new line of work comes to be—design work is started for the OK-180 heavy-water reactor.
In 1951, the first OK-180 heavy-water reactor was commissioned.
In 1952, OKBM started the design work on the OK-120 uranium-graphite reactor. It was the design that reached the highest power level among the uranium-graphite production reactors designed by OKB. The work on this design required that many experimental studies be performed—OKB established a laboratory. This is how the fundamental concept of OKBM was laid down as far back as in the early fifties, which is to ensure reliability and safety of the developed equipment through experiments and full-scale testing.
In 1952–1957, a number of gas-diffusion machines are developed and manufactured, including OK-30M, which turned out to be the most energy-efficient and the least metal-intensive of all the Russian diffusion machines.
In 1953, the Council of Ministers of the USSR passes a resolution to develop a high-power arctic icebreaker with a nuclear propulsion plant. The development of a nuclear steam supply system (NSSS) design for this icebreaker was entrusted to OKB of Plant No. 92.
In 1954, practically along with starting the work on the nuclear-powered icebreaker Lenin, Plant No. 92 and its OKB are involved in the development of the first nuclear-powered submarine. The objective for OKB is to develop a preliminary design for a land-based prototype of the submarine nuclear propulsion plant. As early as in 1955, this work is completed; the reactor plants are put into production. In 1956–1957, OKB takes part in the installation and preoperational adjustment activities on these plants.
In 1955, the final design of the OK-150 propulsion plant for the nuclear icebreaker was developed. Starting from 1956, this design is used to manufacture a full-scale mockup, whereupon OKB starts the actual manufacturing of the equipment.
In 1959, the nuclear-powered icebreaker Lenin was commissioned.
In 1960, OKB is given the highest State Award, the Order of Lenin, for participating in the development of the nuclear propulsion plant for the world’s first civil nuclear ship, the nuclear icebreaker Lenin.
In August 1960, the Council of Ministers of the USSR passes a resolution to develop the first pilot-industrial fast neutron reactor.
In 1961, first dual-purpose reactors developed according to OKB drawings were commissioned. The operation of the dual-purpose reactors showed that it is possible to effectively use these reactors for satisfying the national economy needs — along with the plutonium production, the reactors generated electricity and heat. They became the first nuclear cogeneration plants.
In 1963, because the list of work topics and the work scope of OKB’s activities to develop nuclear reactors for various applications had tremendously increased, the USSR Government made a decision to detach OKB from Gorky Machine-Building Plant.
On January 1, 1964, OKB becomes an independent entity and a member of the USSR State Committee for the Use of Atomic Energy.
In the 1960s, progress was made towards the serial production of nuclear submarines. As the number of Navy facilities increased, a need emerged to start the development of refueling complexes. The OKBM’s team was also involved in these activities — equipment designing, manufacturing and adjustment.
In 1963, OKBM starts the work on the BN-600 reactor design.
In 1966, the sixth navigation of the nuclear icebreaker Lenin with the OK-150 reactor plant ended. The decision was made to replace the reactor plant.
On January 1, 1967, the Company received a public name “Experimental Design Bureau of Machine Building” abbreviated as OKBM.
In 1967, the operation of Generation II nuclear submarines started. One of the landmark achievements was that unified equipment was used in the plants developed for the Generation II nuclear submarines.
In early 1968, the Council of Ministers of the USSR made a decision to build a new nuclear icebreaker Arktika. The nuclear steam supply system for the icebreaker Arktika was developed by OKBM.
In 1969, the USSR Government made a decision to build the Soviet Union’s first surface ship with a nuclear propulsion plant. The development of the nuclear steam supply system was entrusted to OKBM.
The period from 1960 to 1970 may be called crucial in the establishment of OKBM’s experimental facilities, because during this decade almost all experimental departments were formed that could independently conduct testing of all types of equipment and systems for reactor plants designed by OKBM.
OKBM’s first leaders played an important role in establishing and developing the Company. A.S. Yelyan, Director of Plant No. 92, the first Head of OKB, and A.I. Savin, the Company’s first Chief Designer, determined the main business areas and the work management principles.
OKB was established as an independent engineering center of the nuclear machine-building industry largely due to the efforts made by I.I. Afrikantov who was the Chief Designer (since 1951) and the Head of OKBM (from 1954 to 1969). He was the author of fundamental engineering concepts for a number of nuclear reactor designs and nuclear equipment. Since 1998, the Company bears the name of I.I. Afrikantov. He established the fundamentals of the Company based upon the design-and-process service, the pilot production and the test facilities.
In 1970, operation started of the OK-900 advanced nuclear steam supply system developed by OKBM for the nuclear-powered icebreaker Lenin.
In the 1970s, OKBM is developing the world’s most powerful reactor plant for nuclear-powered guided-missile cruisers.
On the basis of the experience with developing and upgrading marine and naval reactors, the Company designed a number of small- and medium-sized reactor plants ABV-6M, KLT-40S, and VBER-300, which were intended for applications in remote areas with the decentralized power supply and expensive fuel. The development work has been going on since 1972.
Russia is a world’s leader in the development of the fast neutron reactor technology. The development work on fast neutron reactors began in the 1960s. JSC “Afrikantov OKBM” was involved in the activities as a central company. BN-350, the world’s first pilot-industrial power reactor, was commissioned in 1973 in Kazakhstan and operated until 1998.
The 1970s is the epoch that is known for the active development of the Northern territories and for the intensive nuclear shipbuilding. In 1975, the nuclear-powered icebreaker Arktika started operating—OKBM was the Chief Designer of the nuclear steam supply system. In August 1977, the nuclear-powered icebreaker Arktika accomplished a historic mission to the North Pole. In the same 1977, the nuclear-powered icebreaker Sibir was started operating—OKBM was the Chief Designer of the nuclear steam supply system.
In the 1970s, the Company starts activities in yet another important line of business—the nuclear hydrogen economy. The activities are performed jointly with Kurchatov Institute. Along with the design department, OKBM is actively developing its experimental facilities. In 1970–1990, a number of high-temperature gas-cooled reactor designs of different power levels were developed for various applications, in particular, the VG-400 pilot nuclear station for combined generation of process heat and electricity in the steam-turbine cycle, the VG-400 GT reactor plant with the direct gas-turbine energy conversion cycle, the VGM modular reactor to generate process heat at about 900°C and electricity, the VGM-P nuclear station to supply power to a standard oil refining combine. The potential for process applications of high-temperature gas-cooled reactors exceeds the capabilities of nuclear electricity generation by a factor of 2.
In late April 1977, OKBM Director Fyodor M. Mitenkov jointly with Minister of Medium Machine Building Ye.P. Slavsky was given an assignment to start up the work on a reactor plant design for the nuclear district heating plant (AST-500).
In 1980, the BN-600 reactor was commissioned at the Beloyarsk NPP. For more than 35 years, BN-600 remained the world’s only commercially operated large-sized fast neutron power reactor. The reactor has been operating steadily for nearly 40 years at the Beloyarsk NPP named after I.V. Kurchatov in the city of Zarechny, Sverdlovsk region, Russia. In the 1980s, the development of the Arctic region continues, which was promoted by newly built icebreakers Russia (1985), Sovetskiy Soyuz (1989), and the lighter aboard ship Sevmorput (1988). OKBM was a Chief Designer of all nuclear steam supply systems for the icebreakers.
In 1988, the advanced L-2 reactor was commissioned. For many years, this reactor was used to successfully solve the task of producing radioactive isotopes on a large scale for industrial, medical and scientific applications (Cobalt-60, Iridium-192, Carbon-14, Phosphorus-32, Thulium-170, Selenium-75, etc.) for the internal and world’s markets.
During the 1970s–1980s, nearly 60 unified reactors for Generation 3 nuclear submarines were manufactured. To this day, most of them are still in operation to constitute the backbone of the Russian Navy strike forces.
The Company’s achievements are in many ways connected with Academician Fyodor M. Mitenkov’s actively creative and organizational activities. He was the Head of the Company for 28 years (1969–1997) and made a decisive contribution to the development of OKBM’s unique research, test, and production facilities. He is the one who turned the Company into the recognized scientific and production center of nuclear engineering.
In the 1990s, OKBM together with the whole industry experienced a difficult time of depression caused by drastic cutbacks in orders in the civil and defense nuclear power industry. The aggravating financial and economic hardships made it necessary for the Company’s management to develop an adequate business strategy suitable for the new economic conditions. The strategy was based upon the program to actively enter the market of high-tech products, predominantly with finished products made by the Company. Objectives were also set to extend in every possible way the list of work topics for the nuclear industry, the non-nuclear market, and for active cooperation with foreign customers. This program—the development and implementation of which are associated with the names of the Company’s leaders of the latest period, A.I. Kiryushin and V.I. Kostin—was supported by the Company’s team and soon produced the expected results.
In 2003, a new stage started in the Company’s active development and in the sustainable growth of its production, financial, and economic performance. The Company launched a large program for restructuring and upgrading its production facilities, while relating to it the new opportunities for revitalizing its business and expanding the range of manufactured products and rendered services.
During this time, OKBM takes an active part in the operation and the enlargement of the Beloyarsk NPP, in the construction of the Tianwan NPP and the experimental fast reactor in China, in the construction of a new nuclear-powered icebreaker 50 Let Pobedy.
Power units are under development for small- and medium-sized nuclear cogeneration plants intended for district heating and capable of simultaneously generating electricity and heat for residential quarters and, should it be necessary, producing high-quality drinking water by way of desalinating seawater.
Another important line of work was gas-turbine power units based upon high-temperature helium-cooled nuclear reactors. These are high-efficiency plants with guaranteed safety, and it is not only possible to use them for generating electricity but also high-grade heat (up to 900°C) for various manufacturing processes including production of hydrogen, which is the most advanced and all-purpose fuel of the future. This development has a status of the international project and it was being performed with participation of companies and research centers from the USA, France, and Japan.
The Company was actively creating high-tech science-intensive products with a high potential for exporting.
In 2004, the Government of the Russian Federation gave OKBM the status of the Federal Research and Production Center.
In 2006, the first criticality was successfully achieved in the nuclear reactors developed by OKBM for the icebreaker 50 Let Pobedy. In 2007, the open-sea nuclear-powered icebreaker 50 Let Pobedy was commissioned.
In August 2008, the Company changed its legal status as part of the large-scale work carried out by the State Atomic Energy Corporation ROSATOM to restructure the nuclear power and industry complex and to change the ownership of Federal State Unitary Enterprises (FSUE) operating in the civil nuclear industry. The Company was transformed into a joint stock company (JSC “Afrikantov OKBM”) and included into the Atomenergoprom Holding Company.
From 2010, JSC “Afrikantov OKBM” is included in the Machine-Building Division of JSC Atomenergomash.
In 2016, the BN-800 power reactor was commissioned at the Beloyarsk NPP. The final design is accomplished, and everything is ready for implementing the advanced project of the commercial BN-1200 reactor intended to close the nuclear fuel cycle on an industrial scale.
In 2016, JSC “Afrikantov OKBM” accomplished the complete delivery of the RITM-200 reactor plant equipment to the lead multipurpose nuclear-powered icebreaker Arktika.
In 2017, JSC “Afrikantov OKBM” finished the development of the RITM-400 nuclear propulsion plant design for the Leader-class icebreakers, which will enable year-round navigation on the North Sea Route.
In 2018, on the basis of the experience with developing and upgrading marine and naval reactors, JSC “Afrikantov OKBM” developed a number of reactor plant designs for autonomous small-sized nuclear power sources in a range of 6–50 MWe—ABV-6E, KLT-40S, and RITM-200M. They are designed to jointly supply electricity and heat, in residential and industrial applications, to isolated consumers in the remote regions devoid of the centralized power supply and having to bring expensive fuel from afar.
In July 2018, nuclear fuel was loaded into the reactors of the world’s first nuclear floating power unit (FPU) Akademik Lomonosov.
Today, JSC “Afrikantov OKBM” is one of the leading design companies in the State Atomic Energy Corporation ROSATOM, a large scientific and production center of the nuclear machine building with a multidisciplinary design team, its own research, test, and production facilities. The OKBM’s scientific and production potential enables an entire range of activities to be accomplished in order to develop various types of reactor plants and the entire gamut of equipment for them. Included here is developing design documentation, performing necessary calculations, research and development work; manufacturing and testing prototypes alongside with developing the industrial manufacturing process; equipment manufacturing, installation supervision, preoperational adjustment and commissioning; equipment service maintenance in the operating facilities and decommissioning.
The total of nearly 500 nuclear reactors and steam generating plants, hundreds of units of sophisticated process equipment have been built and successfully operated according to the Company’s designs and with Company’s participation.
Today, the Company’s main potential is its personnel who have the substantial experience in developing a broad gamut of nuclear engineering products, who have state-of-the-art technologies and who have original engineering ideas and solutions. Nearly 4,000 people work for OKBM including more than 1,600 design engineers, production engineers and test engineers. The Company employees include 1 Academician of the Russian Academy of Sciences, 20 Doctors of Engineering Sciences and 92 Candidates of Engineering Sciences. Throughout the years in action, OKBM has made a great contribution to the development of the Russian nuclear industry, the energy sector, and the fleet.