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Fast Neutron Reactors

Within the structure of the future large scale nuclear power industry the leading role is assigned to fast nuclear reactors with closed fuel cycle. They allow enhancing the efficiency of natural uranium application by approximately 100 times and thereby eliminate restrictions on the development of nuclear industry related to nuclear fuel natural resources.

Geographical diversity of fast reactors around the world

In 1960, JSC “Afrikantov OKBM” started activities in the field of fast reactors by designing the first pilot power reactor BN-350 for an NPP in the City of Shevchenko (currently Aktau, in the Republic of Kazakhstan). The reactor power startup was in 1973 and decommissioning, in 1999.
BN-350 reactor plant design was based on the development and operation experience of fast experimental reactor BR-5 built in 1959 on the site of the Institute of Physics and Power Engineering (IPPE, Obninsk) and on the development experience of fast research reactor BOR-60 put into operation in NIIAR (Dmitrovgrad). The power reactors were developed under scientific supervision of IPPE.
The operation of the power unit with BN-350 demonstrated the reliability and safety of fast high-power sodium-cooled reactors. Long-term operation of the reactor allowed collecting large amounts of information on operability of the reactor core, equipment and safety systems, which provided a reliable base for design development of subsequent fast sodium-cooled reactors.
The power unit with BN-600 reactor (600 MW(e)) is the key facility that demonstrates the achieved results and the potential for fast reactor further design improvement (Beloyarsk NPP Power Unit 3, by the town of Zarechny, in the Sverdlovsk oblast)
A fundamental decision was made in the design of BN-600 reactor related to transition from primary circuit looped layout to integrated layout where the entire equipment of the primary circuit is arranged in the reactor vessel. This allowed enhancing the reactor safety and operation reliability. The Power Unit 3 power startup was in April 1980.
BN-600 is the world’s only fast reactor with commercial-scale power and long-term successful operation in commercial operating mode.


Central hall of BN-600 reactor plant at Beloyarsk NPP

During a long-term operation period the power unit capacity factor is maintained on the consistent high level within the range of 75%—80%. Unplanned losses are less than 2.2%. There is no emission of long-lived gas-aerosol radionuclides into the environment. At present, the emission of inert radioactive gases is negligible and amounts to <1% of the allowable value specified in health and safety regulations.
Power Unit 3 in the process of its operation shows high performance indices and, therefore, successfully resolves the set objective aimed at industry-level validation of reliability and safety of fast sodium-cooled reactors. Three times BN-600 reactor was recognized as the best among the country’s power units in terms of reliability and safety indicators.
In April 2010 the reactor reached the end of its 30-year design service life. The operability of the reactor plant was sufficient enough to obtain a license permitting the reactor life extension for a 10-year period with a view of further extension.
JSC “Afrikantov OKBM”, acting as the Chief Designer of BN-600 reactor, supervises the reactor operation at the Beloyarsk NPP by resolving the issues ofBN-600 reliable and safe operation during the entire lifecycle in cooperation with Beloyarsk NPP and other organizations.
In 1983, the design of advanced fast reactor BN-800 was developed by OKBM based on the experience of BN-600 design development for the power unit of 880 MW(e). In 1984, activities aimed at construction of two BN-800 reactors were launched at Beloyarsk NPP and at newly developed South-Urals NPP. The subsequent construction hold-up period was used for the design modification of these reactors aimed at improving the technical and economic performance indicators and further enhancing of their safety level. Thus, the thermal power was increased by 42% and, respectively, the electric power was raised up to 880 MW within practically the same overall dimensions of BN-600 reactor vessel.
A number of innovative engineering solutions enhancing the reactor plant safety level were adopted in the BN-800 design. The introduced improvements allowed compliance of BN-800 reactor safety level with the requirements for Generation 3+ advanced nuclear power units.
The economic indicators of the power unit were also significantly improved as compared to BN-600. It was achieved through reactor power increase by 1.4 times without changing the reactor pressure vessel diameter and owing to the BN-800 reactor design with one turbomachine instead of three ones provided for in the BN-600 reactor design. Transition to one turbine plant, along with decrease in unit cost of the power unit, also contributes to capacity factor increase roughly by up to 85%.
It was in 2006 when the activities aimed at the BN-800 construction were restarted, and its power startup was performed already in 2015. JSC “Afrikantov OKBM” based on gained experience and its production facilities organized manufacturing and supply of the entire equipment during power unit construction performing the functions of a Packaged Equipment Supplier. Moreover, a large part of equipment was manufactured at OKBM.

bn15   bn16 bn17 

 The site view in 2010


 The site view in 2014

BN-800 construction stages 


BN-800 is aimed at final mastering of the closed nuclear fuel cycle elements to adopt a new technology platform that allows:
- involving U-238 isotope into the effective production cycle, though it is not applied at present and is the main component of the natural uranium, and thereby provide manifold expansion of nuclear industry fuel base,
- recycling of the spent nuclear fuel from other NPPs with thermal-neutron reactors,
- minimize radioactive waste by burning up the long-lived isotopes contained in it.
The Power Unit with BN-800 reactor was brought to 50% of nominal power on January 28, 2016. On attaining the designed capacity and switching over to commercial operation planned for 2016, BN-800 will become the world’s largest operating fast reactor.
The development and implementation of BN-350, BN-600 and BN-800 Projects allowed creating an effective design engineering and production infrastructure which is the basis for the further development of the BN technology.
At present, JSC “Afrikantov OKBM” is the General Designer of BN-1200 reactor plant, coordinates the required R&D activities, including identification of optimal design solutions concerning the power unit.
In 2016, the development of the reactor plant final design and R&D program as well as the development of the power unit design materials will be completed.
The optimal combination of reference and advanced solutions and the possibility of expanded reproduction of fuel allow referring this project to Generation IV nuclear technologies.
BN-1200 is aimed at achieving the economic indicators which will provide its competitiveness as compared to commercial VVERs which are comparable in their power level.
The Table below shows the evolution of main engineering solutions for BN reactors with the development of their designs and accumulation of operation experience. 


Reactor BN-350 BN-600 BN-800 BN-1200
Layout Looped Integral Integral Integral
Fuel type Uranium dioxide (UO2) Uranium dioxide (UO2) Uranium and plutonium dioxide (UPuO2) Uranium and plutonium dioxide
/ Uranium and plutonium nitride (UPuO2/UPuN)
Nominal thermal capacity, MW 750 1,470 2,100 2,800
Gross electric power, MW up to 150* 600 880 1,220

*Except for electricity production, BN-350 reactor plant provided seawater desalination 

 JSC “Afrikantov OKBM” takes an active part in international cooperation on fast reactors. The Company is the designer of engineering solutions for the Chinese Experimental Fast Reactor (CEFR) commissioned in 2011 and the main contractor responsible for manufacturing the reactor main equipment. Among other foreign countries, the Company has the closest cooperation with France. 

Read more: Beloyarsk NPP and fast-neutron reactors

High-temperature Gas-cooled Reactors

Currently, nuclear power based on the pressurized water reactor technology occupies a rightful place in the area of electricity generation. Development of fast reactors ensures a more stable position of nuclear power in this area. Meanwhile, more than 60% of all fuel resources are used by the industry to generate process heat, by the vehicles to be fuel for engines and for district heating.

It is possible to expand the nuclear power market in the non-electric area by deploying high-temperature gas-cooled reactors. Design features of these reactors allow obtaining helium coolant temperatures of up to 950(C that was validated by operating experience of non-Russian gas-cooled reactors.

This specific feature makes it possible to use this heat for different branches of industry (chemistry, oil chemistry, oil refining, stimulation of viscous oil production, metallurgy, etc.).

High temperature makes it possible to produce hydrogen out of water as fuel for vehicles and as a chemical agent for industry.

It is promising to implement a highly efficient direct gas turbine cycle (~50%) and simultaneously use rejected heat for district heating.

JSC “Afrikantov OKBM” has been making developments in the area of high-temperature reactors for more than 40 years. A considerable amount of R&D has been done at the company; more than 70 test facilities were made in cooperation to validate HTGR projects.

Together with Russian enterprises, several HTGR projects of different purpose and power were developed. Among them is a VG-400 nuclear station for combined generation of process heat and electricity in the steam turbine cycle, a VGM modular reactor for generation of process heat with the temperature of up to 900(C and electricity, a VGM-P nuclear station for power supply to the standard oil refining complex, a GT-MHR high-temperature modular reactor with the closed gas turbine cycle for electricity generation, a HTGR modular reactor for MGR-T process application. NRC “Kurchatov Institute” is a scientific adviser of projects. The unit power of state-of-the-art projects of high-temperature gas-cooled modular reactors is up to ~ 600 MW.


Safety is ensured and high temperatures at the reactor outlet are reached thanks to the usage of the following:

  • inert, non-activated helium coolant;
  • fuel based on microspheres with multi-layer heat resistant and radiation resistant coatings to reliably contain fission products in all operation modes, including emergency modes;
  • fuel temperature and power negative feedback;
  • temperature-resistant graphite-based structural materials for the core and reflectors.

The flexible fuel cycle implemented in the HTGR technology allows use of uranium-based, plutonium-based, thorium-based fuel, including MOX fuel without changing the core design and ensures high burnup of this fuel. High burnup excludes usage of the fuel element interior for military purposes.

The HTGR core can be made up of prismatic fuel assemblies with refueling outages or of spherical fuel elements which can be reloaded without reducing reactor power.

 vtgr01Spherical fuel element

HTGR Application Areas

  • Power-technological application
    Supply of heat for industrial processes of different power-intensive branches of industry. Transition to ecologically clean hydrogen power and hydrogen economy. A nuclear hydrogen concept based on the HTGR will solve issues of large-scale generation of fresh water in a more effective way as other technologies. Exceptional properties of hydrogen ensure a prospect for hydrogen wide application in different branches of power industry, for vehicles and in other branches of industry.
  • Electricity generation
    Highly efficient electricity generation—combining of the HTGR with a gas turbine or steam turbine cycle with supercritical parameters at the steam temperature of up to ~600°C. The efficiency of electricity generated for small and medium consumers is up to 50%.
  • Cogeneration
    Combined generation of electricity and heat. A wide range of possibilities for generating and utilizing electricity makes the HTGR heat available factor close to 100%.

vtgr02HTGR application options

Small-Size HTGR Application Options

The reactor and gas turbine plant with the helium turbine arranged in a single unit can be used as a compact autonomous power sources for over-water, underwater and hard-to-reach surface installations located far from the external infrastructure.

vtgr03 vtgr04Autonomous power source for underwater and hard-to-reach surface installations

Basic technical specifications of the subglacial nuclear power plant with the HTGR intended for the Arctic region:

Specification Value
Useful unit electric power, MW 8–25
Depth of submersion, m up to 400
Assigned total service life, years 30
Assigned service life until factory repair, years 15

Example layout of the power supply unit for the subglacial drilling rig under conditions of the Arctic region

The main competitive advantages of the HTGR NPP are effective electricity generation, complete autonomy, and long-term operation without personnel and without refueling.

OKBM’s Experience in the Area of the HTGR

State program in the area of nuclear and hydrogen power OKBM
Rosenergoatom  Agreement
VG-400 VGM
(modular type)
(modular type)
(modular type)
(modular type)
Year 1987 1989 1996 2004 2002
Purpose Heat and electricity generation for industrial processes Heat and electricity generation for industrial processes Heat generation for the oil refinery Hydrogen and electricity generation Generation of electricity and heat for district heating
Thermal power, MW 1060 200 215 600 600
Coolant in the intermediate circuit Helium Helium Helium Helium
Helium temperature at the core outlet, (C 950 950 750 950 850
Status Basic design Basic design Technical proposal Technical proposal Preliminary design, development of key technologies

Read more: High-temperature gas-cooled reactors and Hydrogene energy


Production Nuclear Reactors. Experimental Facilities

The development of production nuclear reactors was reasoned by demands for special nuclear materials (plutonium and tritium) for the nuclear weapons production program. The first production uranium-graphite reactor (PUGR) "A" was developed and put into operation at PO "Mayak" in 1948. OKBM developed the refueling system for that reactor.
Starting from 1948, OKBM, already General Designer, developed a series of PUGR and heavy-water reactor (HWR) designs. In the 1950s, 4 PUGRs and 2 HWRs were constructed based on those designs in Seversk, Zheleznogorsk and Ozersk.
At the same time, three experimental HWRs were developed and put into operation at the Institute of Theoretical and Experimental Physics (ITEP, Moscow), and in nuclear research centers in Yugoslavia and China.
In the 1960s, OKBM developed the new-generation PUGR design to provide weapons-grade plutonium production along with electricity and heat co-generation for industrial and civil objects. These were among the first nuclear cogeneration plants in the world. All in all, five nuclear reactors of this type were constructed. The last of them, having exceeded its design service life more than two times, is still operating and producing heat and electricity for Zheleznogorsk.
During the last years, in accordance with the US-Russian Agreement on the termination of weapons-grade plutonium production in the currently operating PUGR reactors, OKBM in cooperation with other enterprises under Rosatom Corporation was developing PUGR reactor cores conversion designs.
At the same time, a complex of activities was performed to enhance safety and evaluate the residual life of these reactors. At present, unique activities on decommissioning of the shutdown PUGR reactors are in progress.
A new important step in the development of heavy-water nuclear reactor technology was construction of the advanced L-2 HWR in 1988 to replace three previously decommissioned production HWRs. Also, the task of changing the L-2 reactor to the commercial mode of operation to arrange mass production of radioactive isotopes for industrial, medical and scientific applications on the domestic and foreign markets was successfully solved with participation of OKBM.
OKBM actively participates in development of innovative reactor technologies. In 1993-2004, OKBM performed design development, manufactured and delivered equipment for the "Neutron generator", experimental sub-critical reactor, which is currently being constructed at ITEP. This reactor will be used for research of electronuclear processes for future development of a new type of reactors – sub-critical electronuclear.

JSC «Afrikantov OKBM» actively participates in working out of the innovative reactor technologies. In 1993-2004 the enterprise developed, manufactured and delivered to the customer - ФГУП «ГНЦ Russian Federation ИТЭФ» - the equipment for the experimental subcritical reactor "The Electronuclear Generator of Neutrons ", which will serve as the testing facility for the technology of conducting electronuclear processes for the purposes of subsequent creation of new subcritical electronuclear reactors for nuclear-power engineering of the future.

Electronuclear Neutrons Generator, basic diagram
И - injector, НЧУ, ОЧУ - accelerator cavities, ОС - radiation source


The experience gained by OKBM during more than 50 years of work in the area of production reactor technologies is widely used in the development of reactor plants of various types and applications..

klt veb Marine Nuclear Power Plants

Russia is the only country in the world that has a fleet of civil nuclear-powered ships. Nuclear icebreakers have been operating in the Arctic region for more than 50 years, thus providing reliable and safe pilotage of cargo ships along the entire North Sea Route.

The first reactor plant for a civil vessel, the "Lenin" nuclear icebreaker, was designed by OKBM in 1955. The Arctic navigation of the icebreaker started in 1959 and continued until 1989 resulting in the pilotage of 3700 vessels in ice fields, which confirmed the high efficiency of the nuclear energy application for icebreakers.

The successful operation of the first nuclear-powered icebreaker initiated a new branch of industry, the nuclear shipbuilding. Eight more nuclear-powered icebreakers ("Arctica", "Siberia", "Russia", "Soviet Union", "Taymyr", "Vaygach", "Yamal", "50 Let Pobedy") and "Sevmorput" ocean-going lighter with ice reinforcement were built in Russia between 1975 and 2006.
OKBM developed 3 RP modifications for them: OK-900A, KLT-40, KLT-40M. The whole set of systems and equipment for these RPs was developed and commissioned with participation of OKBM specialists.


The Russian nuclear-powered icebreaking fleet keeps developing. OKBM creates new-generation reactor designs for prospective nuclear icebreakers. At the present time, final design is being completed of the reactor plant for a versatile double-draft icebreaker. After 2015, a series of such ships will replace linear icebreakers and those with the limited draft, which will have completed their service life by that time.

Read more: Versatile nuclear ice-breaker


Reactor Plants for Navy Ships



Reactors for Small and Medium Power Stations

Based on the experience in development and improvement of marine nuclear reactors, a number of reactor plant designs have been developed by OKBM for small-sized autonomous nuclear power sources ranging from 6 to 100 MW(e). Those are ABV-6E, KLT-40S, ATETs-80. The plants are intended for combined electricity and heat supply to isolated consumers (both communal and industrial) in remote areas where fuel delivery is too costly. In Russia, those are spacious low-populated areas and ports along the North Sea Route and the Far East Coast, fields of mineral deposits, military bases etc. Outside Russia, those are coastal areas in the developing countries. The application of this type energy sources for seawater desalination in areas lacking fresh water has also been found appropriate.
The ABV-6E and KLT-40S reactor plant designs that are most ready for deployment imply the arrangement of the nuclear power plant on land or on a non-self-propelled watercraft.

Such a floating power unit (FPU) is assembled completely at a shipyard with the use of a well-developed technology of constructing atomic icebreakers and navy ships. After completing comprehensive tests and customer's acceptance procedure, an FPU is tugged to the moorings where it is connected to the coastal network to start operation. The floating design allows decreasing the scope and cost of capital construction in the area of NPP location. The customer receives environmentally friendly heat and electrical energy, while the matters of nuclear waste storage, qualified NPP maintenance and decommissioning on completion of its service life are solved by the plant operator (user) on the nuclear fleet maintenance facilities available in Russia.
In order to demonstrate this technology in practice, a pilot FPU with KLT-40S reactor plant (the prototype of which is the reactor plant installed in operating ice-breakers) is currently being constructed to supply heat and electricity to Pevek.

Read more: FNPP "Academic Lomonosov"

In order to supply electricity and heat power to communal and industrial objects in a number of regions in Russia (in the European part, Ural, Siberia, Far East), OKBM developed a small reactor plant design, VBER-300, with the modular PWR and well-developed passive safety systems.
The VBER-300 ideally combines the latest achievements in the nuclear marine technology including the reactor unit and pressurized primary circuit with traditional nuclear industry solutions (VVER-1000) related to the core and fuel cycle, which meet all major requirements for safety, reliability and efficiency of next-generation nuclear stations.
The reactor unit layout principles incorporated in the design make it possible to minimize the buffer area during construction of stationary power sources.
The important feature of VBER-300 RP is that it can be used as a basis for development of nuclear stations from 100 to 600 MW (e) with the use of unified solutions for the main equipment. It facilitates to the maximum extent the way to achieve the goals of the Energy Strategy of Russia concerning the enhancement of the regional nuclear industry.

Read more: Regional power engineerimg