Tuesday, September 23, 2014


Russia’s ‘Breakthrough’ energy project enables closed a nuclear fuel cycle and a future without radioactive waste. The first batch of MOX nuclear fuel has been manufactured for the world’s only NPP industrially power generating breeder reactors.   

A world first, tablets of the fuel of the future have been put on serial production and are destined for Russia’s next generation BN-800 breeder reactor (880 megawatts), currently undergoing tests at the Beloyarskaya nuclear power plant.
The production line, now undergoing start-up and adjustment, was assembled in a mine 200 meters underground and will become fully operational by the end of 2014.

Energy from here to eternity

Humankind has already produced so much nuclear waste that it would take decades, if not hundreds of years to process and recycle it. As of now, the only light at the end of the tunnel is fast-neutron reactor technology.
The fast-neutron nuclear – or breeder - reactors use technology that enables the use of a wider range of radioactive elements as fuel, thus considerably enlarging the potential stock of nuclear fuel for electric power generation.
Russia is the only country that operates fast neutron reactors industrially.
After decades of research, practically all breeder reactor projects around the world, including in the US, France, Japan and several other countries possessing nuclear energy technologies, were closed down. The only country that currently has operating breeder reactor power generation is Russia.
Over the last 50 years the USSR, then Russia, introduced a number of industrial and research fast neutron reactors. One of them, the BN-600 (600 megawatt), running at the Beloyarskaya nuclear power plant since 1980, is the only fast neutron reactor in the world that generates electricity on an industrial scale. The BN-600 is also the most powerful operable fast neutron reactor in the world.

Fast Neutron Reactors

(August 2014)
  • Fast neutron reactors are a technological step beyond conventional power reactors.
  • They offer the prospect of vastly more efficient use of uranium resources and the ability to burn actinides which are otherwise the long-lived component of high-level nuclear wastes.
  • Some 400 reactor-years experience has been gained in operating them.
  • Generation IV reactor designs are largely FNRs, and international collaboration on FNR designs is proceeding with high priority.
About 20 Fast Neutron Reactors (FNR) have already been operating, some since the 1950s, and some supplying electricity commercially. About 400 reactor-years of operating experience have been accumulated to the end of 2010. Fast reactors more deliberately use the uranium-238 as well as the fissile U-235 isotope used in most reactors. If they are designed to produce more plutonium than they consume, they are called Fast Breeder Reactors (FBR). But many designs are net consumers of fissile material including plutonium.* Fast neutron reactors also can burn long-lived actinides which are recovered from used fuel out of ordinary reactors. 
Several countries have research and development programs for improved Fast Neutron Reactors, and the IAEA's INPRO program involving 22 countries (see later section) has fast neutron reactors as a major emphasis, in connection with closed fuel cycle. For instance one scenario in France is for half of the present nuclear capacity to be replaced by fast neutron reactors by 2050 (the first half being replaced by 3rd-generation EPR units).
A major agreement between Japan's Atomic Energy Agency (JAEA), France's CEA and the US Department of Energy was signed in October 2010. This expanded previous FNR collaboration toward the joint design and development of reliable world-class FNRs and getting private manufacturers involved. JAEA is working on the design of a demonstration reactor to succeed the prototype FBR Monju, France is developing the Advanced Sodium Technical Reactor for Industrial Demonstration (ASTRID), and wants Japan to test its fuel in Monju. The USA is standing back from new plants and is focused on systems, materials and safety analysis but has an extensive base of information and experiences as a result of past efforts to develop FNRs, notably FFTF and EBR-II. Both pool-type and loop-type FNR designs are seen to have potential. The work will include FNR fuel cycles.
The FNR was originally conceived to burn uranium more efficiently and thus extend the world's uranium resources – it could do this by a factor of about 60. From the outset, nuclear scientists understood that today's reactors fuelled essentially with U-235 exploited less than one percent of the energy potentially available from uranium. Early perceptions that those uranium resources were scarce caused several countries to embark upon extensive FBR development programs. However significant technical and materials problems were encountered, and also geological exploration showed by the 1970s that uranium scarcity would not be a concern for some time. Due to both factors, by the 1980s it was clear that FNRs would not be commercially competitive with existing light water reactors for some time.


  1. While breeder reactors are a great idea, they are most certainly NOT free of radioactive waste products. Like current thermal-neutron reactors, they operate by fission, which produces fission products. So, while the development of breeder technology should be encouraged, this should not happen for the wrong reasons. Until the issues of management of, for example, technetium-99 and iodine-129, are addressed, we will always have long-term radioactive waste to contend with. Of course, it all still beats coal hands down as an energy source! :)

    1. You are absolutely correct. As I said in my last sentence, "LET'S HEAR IT FOR ANY PROGRESS THAT LIMITS NUCLEAR WASTE!" Limits are a start, but TESLA TECHNOLOGY should have been developed long ago.