Fast Breeder Reactor in Operation: BN-800

Kawin Surakitbovorn
February 19, 2018

Submitted as coursework for PH241, Stanford University, Winter 2018

Beloyarsk Nuclear Power Plant

Fig. 1: The Beloyarsk Nuclear Power Plant. (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

Beloyarsk Nuclear Power Plant (NPP), shown in Fig. 1, is the second oldest NPP in the USSR. Located in Sverdlovsk Oblast, it is the only NPP in Russia that consists of power units of various types. The first two power units, AMB-100 and AMB-200, were supercritical water reactor type. They started their operation in 1964 and 1967, and achieved the maximum power of 105 MW and 170 MW respectively. [1] After about 20 years of service, they were each shut down, AMB-100 in 1983 and AMB-200 in 1990.

Fast Reactor Progress at Beloyarsk

Among all leading countries pursuing nuclear power, Russia has had the most progress in the development of fast reactors. The first fast reactor in Russia, BR-1, was designed in 1949 and commissioned at the Institute of Physics and Power Engineering (IPPE) in Obninsk in 1955. After that, two other FBRs, BR-5 and BOR-60, were also commissioned and tested, both at IPPE and the Research Institute of Atomic Reactors (RIAR) in Dimitrovgrad. [2] These three FRBs and the research done at these two institutes paved ways to the commissioning of the first FBR at Beloyarsk, BN-600. Designed to generate 600MW of electric power, the plant has been in operation since 1980. Based on the successful design of BN-600, the construction of BN-800 was started in 1984 (as seen in Fig. 2). However, after the Chernobyl disaster in 1986, the reactors construction was suspended. In 2006, the BN-800s construction was resumed, and in 2014, the reactor was brought to minimum controlled power. The reactor was connected to the electricity grid and achieved full power of 800MW at the end of 2016, claiming the title of the world most powerful FBR. The reactor has been in commercial operation since. [3]

The Design of BN-800

Fig. 2: Construction of the BN-800 reactor. (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

The plant of BN-800 is of a pool-type. The reactor, coolant pumps, heat exchangers and all the piping are located in a common liquid sodium pool. The unit uses a three-circuit coolant arrangement. In the primary and secondary circuits, sodium coolant are circulated. In the third circuit, water and steam flow. The heat is transferred from the reactor core via several independent circulation loops. Each comprises a primary sodium pump, two intermediate heat exchangers, a secondary sodium pump with an expansion tank located upstream, and an emergency pressure discharge tank. These feed a steam generator, which in turn supplies a condensing turbine that turns the generator. Its reactor core is very similar in size and mechanical properties to the BN-600 reactor core. The fuel composition between BN-600 and BN-800; however, is very different. In contrast to medium-enriched uranium dioxide used in BN-600, the BN-800 will burn mixed uranium-plutonium oxide fuel. [4] This will help to reduce the weapon-grade plutonium stockpile, and will also demonstrate the feasibility of the closed uranium-plutonium fuel cycle.

Looking Ahead: Decommissioning Cost

So far, there have only been two large scale fast neutron reactors in operation globally, BN-600 and BN-800. Due to the lack of data, it is difficult to estimate the decommissioning cost of a fast neutron reactor. Nonetheless, it is estimated that the cost of disposal of all radioactive waste when BN-800 goes into decommissioning will amount to 9.25 billion rubles ($145 million). With its published construction cost of 145.65 billion rubles, this is roughly 6.4% of its construction cost. [5]

© Kawin Surakitbovorn. The author warrants that the work is the author's own and that Stanford University provided no input other than typesetting and referencing guidelines. The author grants permission to copy, distribute and display this work in unaltered form, with attribution to the author, for noncommercial purposes only. All other rights, including commercial rights, are reserved to the author.


[1] N. A. Dollezhal' et al., "Operating Experience with the Beloyarsk Nuclear Power Station," Sov. Atom. Energy 27, 1153 (1969) [Атомная Энергия 27, 379 (1969)].

[2] J. H. Kittel et al., "History of Fast Reactor Fuel Development," J. Nucl. Mater. 204, 1 (1993).

[3] W. D. Magwood IV and H. Paillere, "Looking Ahead at Reactor Development," Prog. Nucl. Energy 102, 58 (2018).

[4] O. M. Saraev et al., "BN-800 Design Validation and Construction Status," Atom. Energy 108, 248 (2010) [Атомная Энергия 108, 197 (2010)].

[5] A. A. Rybin and O. A. Momot, "Radioactive Waste From Decommissioning of Fast Reactors (Through the Example of BN-800)," J. Phys. Conf. Ser. 781, 012013 (2017).