The BN-600 fast neutron reactor operating at the Beloyarsk nuclear power plant (BNPP, Zarechny, Sverdlovsk region) is distinguished by an unprecedented level of safety on a global scale and, at the same time, by an increased volume of generated energy. Nikolay Oshkanov, professor of the Department of Nuclear Power Plants and Renewable Energy Sources of UrFU, former director of BNPP, said this in an interview with the Znak.com news agency, timed to coincide with the 35th anniversary of the Chernobyl accident.
According to Professor Oshkanov, after the Chernobyl accident, the BN-600, which was put into operation in 1980, was thoroughly checked by the state commission.
“The commission issued an official conclusion: there are no questions about the BN fast neutron reactor,” Nikolai Oshkanov said.
This year, the service life of this reactor was extended to 50 years, and justifications are being prepared for an extension to 60 years.
In 2015, the BN-800 reactor was commissioned at the Beloyarsk NPP, which is also characterized by operational stability. In the same year, the development of a technical design for a nuclear power plant with a BN-1200 reactor, the world’s first fourth-generation reactor, was completed.
“No matter what happens to it, there is no need to resettle the population and personnel of the station. Accordingly, the anti-terrorist level of security is also increasing. If there is a loss of control over the reactor, it will shut down itself, without human intervention. In addition, in comparison with thermal reactors, even such modern ones as VVER-1200, under equal conditions the BN-1200 technology can be 10% cheaper, ”Oshkanov emphasized.
The advantage of BN-type reactors is that they produce high-quality fuel in volumes larger than they “burn” themselves. That is, in the words of Nikolai Oshkanov, they can not only “feed” themselves, but also “feed” other reactors and stations. As a result, the need for uranium mining disappears. This is a fundamentally important feature of reactors of this type, since uranium reserves remain only for several decades.
Safety zone does not include extensive sanitary area which adds another advantage to fast neutron reactors.
“On BN-800 it will be limited by a fence, and on BN-1200 it will be limited to the perimeter of the reactor compartment,” Oshkanov explained.
In general, the operation of the BNPP is most demandingly controlled by both the services of the nuclear power plant itself and the sanitary and epidemiological station of Zarechny, he noted. And the level of radioactivity, including for natural reasons, in Zarechny is lower than in neighboring Yekaterinburg.
Employees and graduates of UrFU have made and are making a significant contribution to the creation and efficient operation of power units of the Beloyarsk nuclear power plant. Currently, the Department of Nuclear Power Plants and Renewable Energy Sources of UrFU is implementing several research projects at once on the topic of nuclear power plant safety.
“It should be noted the works devoted to the problem of decommissioning nuclear power plants that have worked out their service life. They will reduce the exposure of personnel involved in this. Recently, work has appeared on the kinetics of nuclear reactors, that is, studies of their non-stationary neutron-physical parameters. In these works, the absence of the risk of a continuous increase in the power of the reactors was proved. The work on the problem of shutting down the reactor is nearing completion: in this case, a thorough analysis of the effectiveness of the emergency protection will be required, ”commented Professor Oshkanov.
In his opinion, in connection with the global pressure on hydrocarbon energy, nuclear power plants will serve as a base for generating electricity, and renewable sources will cover the growing energy needs in the daytime, with a shortage of natural energy from the sun and wind, they should be helped by quick-start gas power plants.
“We are talking about the synergy of different methods of energy production, about nuclear-thermal power plants, supplemented by solar-wind sources,” Nikolai Oshkanov specified. – This approach will lead, on the one hand, to a significant increase in the capacity of nuclear power plants, and on the other, to significant savings in the specific consumption of nuclear and fossil fuels, saving water resources, and reducing anthropogenic gas emissions into the atmosphere. There is also another prospect: the electric power of nuclear power plants will produce hydrogen in order to drive it through the pipes through which Russian gas is supplied today ”.
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