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Plutonium Utilization Scenarios


System Analysis of Weapons and Civil Plutonium Utilization Scenarios in the Nuclear Fuel Cycle of Russia Taking into Account Economics, Non-Proliferation and Ecology Factors

Tech Area / Field

  • FIR-FUC/Fuel Cycle/Fission Reactors
  • FIR-NSS/Nuclear Safety and Safeguarding/Fission Reactors

8 Project completed

Registration date

Completion date

Senior Project Manager
Tocheny L V

Leading Institute
FEI (IPPE), Russia, Kaluga reg., Obninsk

Supporting institutes

  • All-Russian Research and Designing Institute of Complex Energetic Technology, Russia, St Petersburg\nState Special Project Institute, Russia, Moscow\nKurchatov Research Center / Institute of Nuclear Reactors, Russia, Moscow\nNIIAR (Atomic Reactors), Russia, Ulianovsk reg., Dimitrovgrad

Project summary

The Project's goal is to perform system analysis of proposed options of large-scale involvement of released weapons plutonium and extracted civil plutonium into nuclear fuel cycle of Russia in accordance with the RF MINATOM general concept, taking into account economic, non-proliferation and ecology aspects. Based on this analysis, justified proposals will be elaborated on the sequence - weapons/civil — and rates of involvement of these two grades of plutonium into nuclear power of Russia according to the plans of its development.

At present, Russia owns significant and still increasing resources of plutonium. About 30 tons of extracted civil plutonium has been accumulated as a result of RT-1 reprocessing plant operation. Reduction of nuclear weapons has posed the problem of weapons plutonium being surplus for the needs of the national defense. On the 41st IAEA General session (October 1997, Vienna) it was announced that the decision had been made in the Russian Federation on gradual withdrawal from nuclear-military programs up to 50 tons of plutonium.

Withdrawal of plutonium from the defense sphere along with accumulation of extracted civil plutonium requires development of the definite management strategy for both kinds of plutonium on the state level. Ink-rest in minimization of free plutonium being stored in stocks is connected with both potential danger of this material for the environment and human beings, and increased risk оf its non-authorized use. Besides, storing of large amounts of free plutonium results in significant economical expenditures.

As the preliminary studies have shown, the narrow, "exceptionally economical" approach to the problem which does not take into account all the great variety of indirect economic expenditures and non-economic factors, points to the cost nature of plutonium utilization in nuclear power for the nearest future. In the heart of the matter, this forces protraction of solving the problem of excess civil and weapons plutonium stock elimination for the indefinitely long time. It can be caused by the conditions arisen in Russia at the moment. Generally speaking, it is premature to make final conclusions on this limited basis. The problem is of such high importance, that all its aspects should be studied deeply and comprehensively in order to find not only economical, but also political, social, and ecological stimuli for its solution.

The Project will use the results obtained within the framework on the ISTC Project #369 on system analysis of technical feasibility and economical expediency of weapons and civil plutonium utilization in nuclear power of Russia. At the same time, the Project is considered as an integral part and natural continuation of works started on the ISTC Project #369, which will be performed in more detail taking into account the real situation in nuclear power of Russia. Within the framework on the Project, the following tasks are to be solved:

- improvement of system analysis methodology related to weapons originated plutonium and development of a new system analysis methodology for extracted civil plutonium. These two methodologies should meet the MINATOM's official position:
- detailed studies of various technologies, locations and necessary measures aimed at decreasing expenditures caused by weapons and civil plutonium based MOX fuel utilization in nuclear power, and elaboration of conditions needed for ensuring MOX fuel competitiveness with respect to uranium fuel;
- system based grounding of advantages of reactor utilization of weapons and civil plutonium, as compared to its long-term storage, taking into account economics, non-proliferation and ecology factors.

The proposed Project is one of the international cooperation elements aimed at guaranteeing irreversibility of the nuclear disarmament process and nuclear safety in a broad sense. It is in coherence with the main tasks formulated on Moscow Summit on Nuclear Safety (1996) and other international forums concerning the subject.

The role of foreign collaborators and representatives of firms-collaborators in the course of works on ISTC Project #369 was extremely high. An idea of adaptation to the Russian realities of multi-attribute model for system analysis has been suggested by the European partners. This multi-attribute model has been developed in the USA for the task of surplus weapons plutonium management. This approach used in ISTC Project # 369, and in particular its "Fissile Materials Non-Proliferation" section, raised a great interest of both specialists and managers. With the assistance of western experts, the reasons for MOX fuel competitiveness in the EU countries and the ways to achieve this condition in Russia have become substantially more clear. Finally, general problem statement of the problem within the proposed Project and specific directions of studies have been formed by to considerable extent due to close cooperation with the managers and experts from Western Europe. There is every reason to hope for closer collaboration within the framework of the new Project.


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