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The TVEL company of Rosatom state corporation signed an agreement with Vattenfall Nuclear Fuel AB company (Sweden) for delivery of an experimental consignment of a new design fuel for the Ringhals-3 nuclear power plant, located on the Varo Peninsula, 60 km south of Göteborg. In compliance with the agreement, at first the fuel will undergo qualification at the Chemical Concentrate Plant in Novosibirsk, which Checking and selection of fuel elements on the production line of the Novosibirsk Plant of Chemical Concentrates. Photo, A. Denisov (from the RIA NOVOSTI archives)

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will take several years, then in 2014, four or eight national fuel assemblies* will be sent to Sweden. At present there work three nuclear power plants equipped with ten reactors, which provide ~45 percent of electric power generation of the country. The biggest Ringhals-3 has four boilers, which produce the fifth part of this quantity. According to experts, the project's successful implementation will enable Russian producers to approach a new major market of Western design reactors and to extend the Rosatom global business.

Vasily Konstantinov, Vice-President of TVEL company told Alexander Yemelyanenkov, correspondent of the Rossiiskaya Gazeta newspaper, about the importance attached to this agreement by his company and future prospects for the country in this connection.

He has noted that the square-shaped fuel assembly, suggested to the Scandinavian partners and being developed by Rosatom since 2002, is designed for pressurized water reactors (PWR) widespread in the West. It is based on a long-term experience of the manufacture and operation of fuel assemblies for water-cooled power reactors-1000 (VVER-1000)* prevalent in our country. The basic features of this new engineering product are connected, first of all, with the form of its cross-section. Contrary to the conventional national assemblies developed in the USSR and based on a hexagonal section, the square-shaped fuel assembly has a rectangular configuration (reflected in the name of this fuel assembly). Figuratively speaking, in such pencil there are 17x17 rows of fuel elements 12 ft long (foot is equal to 30.48 cm) tightly assembled, fastened and provided with control means.

Konstantinov explains: "Another section means other loads, other processes, other technologies, and reactors

* Fuel assembly is a structural element of a nuclear reactor core, which provides reliable elimination of heat from fuel to a core coolant, consisting of fuel elements which include a fission material, spacer grids, bottom and top nozzles, and, in some instances, a shroud.--Ed.

* Water-moderated water-cooled power reactor is a pressurized water nuclear reactor, one of the most successful development branches of nuclear power plants widely used in the world.--Ed.

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Reactor cores of the Russian VVER-1000 and the Western 950-1,250 MW PWR reactor of the American Westinghouse company.

also are different. If anything, it was a challenge, and we took it up deliberately. The following two main factors served as a basis for making a decision on a new design of fuel assembly, namely, development of nuclear fuel for new generations of VVER-1000-conditional analogs of PWR-900 reactor of the Western design and, of course, the design and production potential of Russian enterprises and institutes for creation of such products." It took 5-6 years to carry out R&D and tests and launch industrial production. When speaking about atomic industry, we must measure not 7 but 17 times, which is a record figure. Among the developers participating in execution of the ambitious project, Konstantinov singled out the Bochvar High-Technology Research Institute of Inorganic Materials* (Moscow), a leading enterprise of Rosatom, whose workers create fissionable, radioactive, structural, superconductive and nano-materials. It was there that fuel elements (zirconic jacket and uranium fuel pellets) were designed for square fuel assemblies. The Leipunsky Physics and Power Engineering Institute (Obninsk, Moscow Region) carried out thermophysical experiments, and the Russian Research Center "Kurchatov Institute" validated the strength of new assemblies. The Afrikantov Experimental Design Office of Mechanical Engineering (Nizhni Novgorod) was appointed the project chief designer. In short, the new innovative product of Rosatom has come to life owing to a well-coordinated cooperation of several national enterprises of atomic industry.

Konstantinov stressed that the abovementioned fuel assembly included the already officially accepted and positively proven design concepts for the rack and spacer grid providing increased serviceability of nuclear fuel in PWR reactors. The fuel assembly is made of modern Russian zirconium-base alloys being produced for long by the Chepetsk Mechanical Plant (Glazov, Republic of Udmurtia) affiliated with TVEL.

As mentioned earlier, according to the agreement, the square fuel assemblies will be approved in the shops of the Novosibirsk Plant of Chemical Concentrates, although the similar enterprise of the fuel group company, OAO Elemash (Elektrostal, Moscow Region), has much more experience in cooperation with foreign customers. But it was just the Siberian specialists who showed interest in the project and were active in its advancing. Therefore, TVEL management considered reasonable to use their engineering, design and technological knowledge for the innovative project.

The Swedish Vattenfall Nuclear Fuel AB will be the first foreign power engineering company to receive an experimental consignment of square fuel assemblies for licensing and further use at the Ringhals-3 nuclear power station. Today the following two global suppliers command at the market of PWR fuel, namely, the

See: M. Khalizeva, "Durable Wires", Science in Russia, No. 2, 2012.--Ed.

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Franco-German Areva NP and the American Westing-house Electric Company, which also supply fuel assembly to Sweden. But the management of Vattenfall Nuclear Fuel AB makes no secret of its wish to expand the technological potentialities at the expense of obtaining the Russian square fuel assemblies with the improved characteristics. Director General of the Swedish company Per-Olof Nestenborg said in the course of his visit to OAO Elemash in March of 2012: "The quality of TVEL products fully meets our expectations, therefore we have ordered them. It is very important to note that we do not test, we verify fuel assemblies (i.e. confirm compliance of the product with the predetermined standard requirements). It means that we trust TVEL experience in utilization of fuel for VVER reactors and believe in the possibility of its production for other types of reactors."

Nevertheless, despite such flattering opinions, our company has to fight for "a place in the sun". When TVEL gets to the Swedish market, it, like two other foreign producers, will participate in a tender for commercial refueling. However, this in no way upsets our producer. Konstantinov has pointed out that the company won all its long-term contracts for fuel delivery by results of precisely such tenders.

At present the company is actually the only supplier of fuel assemblies for reactors of the Russian design. But several years ago Westinghouse attempted to press the Russian giant on "its own" market, which ended with signing of a contract for commercial deliveries in 2011-2015 of nuclear fuel for atomic power stations in Ukraine, where our power engineering machines are installed. The American fuel assemblies are already used on the second and third reactor blocks of the South-Ukrainian nuclear power station. In 2012 they will be loaded into the fifth block of the Zaporozhye nuclear power station.

However, TVEL also decided not to stop at what has been accomplished. After the company signed an agreement with the Swedish partner, it provided fairly good conditions for extending its influence on the world market of nuclear products. Konstantinov has not ruled out that the said experimental consignment to the Scandinavian Peninsula will be followed also by other deliveries of the square fuel assemblies abroad as the terms of the first agreement do not prohibit them. Meanwhile, 76 power reactors in Russia and 15 in the states of Europe and Asia (17 percent of the world market), and also 30 research plants in different parts of the world operate under TVEL trademark. But in the coming years these figures can be essentially increased.

A. Yemelyanenkov, "To Sweden With Its Square Fuel Assembly", Rossiiskaya Gazeta, No. 46, 2012


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SQUARE FUEL ASSEMBLIES FOR WESTERN DESIGN REACTORS // Minsk: Belarusian Electronic Library (BIBLIOTEKA.BY). Updated: 07.10.2021. URL: (date of access: 25.04.2024).

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