The Russian state-owned nuclear energy corporation Rosatom has offered a more advanced fuel option to India’s largest nuclear power station at Kudankulam, which will allow its reactors to run for an extended two-year cycle without stopping to load fresh fuel.
Rosatom’s nuclear fuel division, TVEL Fuel Company, is the current supplier of TVS – 2 M fuel for the two VVER 1,000 MWe reactors generating power in the Kudankulam Nuclear Power Project (KKNPP). This fuel has an 18-month fuel cycle, meaning that the reactor has to be stopped for fresh fuel loading every one-and-a-half years. TVEL has now offered the more modern Advanced Technology Fuel (ATF), whose fuel cycle is a whopping 24 months. Hence, it will ensure more efficiency, additional power generation due to prolonged operation of the reactor and sizable savings of the foreign exchange need to buy fresh fuel assemblies from Russia.
At a recent conference in Hyderabad, the senior vice-president of TVEL’s Research and Development Wing, Alexander Ugryumov, presented the new fuel technology to the Indian nuclear reactors, particularly for the 1,000 MWe pressurised water reactors of KKNPP, an official statement from Rosatom said.
TVEL, which initially supplied the Kudankulam reactors with the UTVS fuel system which has a fuel cycle of 12 months, had offered the new, advanced and more reliable fuel system TVS – 2 M to KKNPP reactors earlier in 2022, which took the fuel cycle from 12 months to 18 months. In other words, the newer fuel extended the continuous operation of the nuclear reactor between two refueling instances from 12 months to 18 months, boosting power generation and the reactor’s performance significantly. Moreover, it also saved a lot of resources for the Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited, the project proponent, needed for buying fuel from Russia to ensure the continuous operation of the KKNPP reactors..
Mr. Ugryumov said the introduction of new ATF fuel with enrichment of over 5% would now enable the longer 24-month fuel cycles. “Extending the fuel cycle means that the reactor will stop for fresh fuel loading only once in 24 months and thus will generate more electricity every year, result in purchase of fewer fresh fuel assemblies, need lesser resources required for offloading used fuel bundles from the reactor once in 24 months etc.,” he noted.
He added that Rosatom is continuing to develop and test new fuel materials, both cladding and fuel matrix. In the ongoing lead test rod programme underway in the VVER – 1,000 MWe reactors of the Rostov Nuclear Power Plant, several fuel assemblies contain ATF fuel rods with innovative claddings made of chromium-nickel alloy as well as zirconium ally with chromium coating.
“Along with that, experimental fuel rods with four different combinations of fuel composition and cladding materials undergo the fourth cycle of testing in the research reactor at the Research Institute of Atomic Reactors in Dimitrovgrad. In addition, testing of VVER and PWR fuel rods with new uranium-silicide fuel has begun in 2022, also in the research reactor,” Mr. Ugryumov informed.