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Russia with nuclear energetics or without it

Menshikov V.F.

Currently 432 nuclear energetic units function in 31 countries of the world and 53 more units are under construction. Worldwide, nuclear energetics provides about 17% of produced electric energy, but in some countries nuclear power plants are the main source of electric energy.

Currently 9 nuclear power plants with 29 units and reactors of three types are used in Russia.

In 1997 nuclear power plants constituted around 13% (108,2 billion kilowatt-hours) of the total production of electric energy in the country. Based on safety and stability of nuclear power plants functioning in 1996-97, Russian nuclear energetics takes the third place in the world after Japan and Germany.

In 1997 Russia started a new program of the nuclear energetic development, that involves modernization of the active nuclear power plants, completion of initiated construction, and placing into commercial operation of 3 new reactors within next five years. New nuclear power plants will be built on already developed industrial territories.

The safety of nuclear objects, safe removal of nuclear power plants from service, and disposal of radioactive wastes remain the main problems of the nuclear energetics. By now tens of billion curie radioactive wastes are accumulated on the Earth. The most "contaminated" is the process of conversion of used nuclear fuel from military reactors used for production of weapon plutonium. Last reactor of this type was stopped in the USA in 1988. In Russia 5 remaining reactors were converted for production of electric energy or dual-use isotopes. The used fuel from nuclear power plants has the highest rate of accumulation. Worldwide, its discharge rate exceeds 9 000 ton per year. Supposedly, 220 thousand ton of used fuel will accumulate on the planet by the year of 2000. In Russia the total amount of accumulated used nuclear fuel is estimated as 10 000 ton with total radioactivity about 5 billion curie.

Modern specialists consider two possible approaches to the solution of the radioactive waste problem: closed fuel cycle when used fuel is used for secondary extraction of uranium and plutonium for repeated use, and the open fuel cycle, when the used fuel is buried. In the open fuel cycle only 1% of uranium is used, whereas the rest goes into the dumps of enriching plants or becomes used fuel. The efficiency of the closed cycle is much higher from the point of view of uranium utilization, but the process of separation and extraction of uranium and plutonium is accompanied by production of large amount of radioactive wastes.

In Russian practice two methods of dealing with used nuclear fuel are accepted:
• Direct waste disposal (currently in the form of long-term storage) according to the open fuel cycle technology;
• Conversion of the used fuel with extraction of U-235, U-238 and Pl-239.

In actual practice, the closed fuel cycle is not complete because extracted plutonium accumulates in storage and does not enter the fuel cycle, and the open fuel cycle does not include the terminal stage of burial.

The problem of removal of nuclear power plants from service is also far from being solved. In Russia the 30-year projected period of exploitation for several nuclear units of 9 nuclear power plants will end by the year of 2001 and practically every year 1-2 nuclear units will have to be taken out service. At the moment, 4 units are already stopped. In early 1997 the government ordered a decree about financing the removal of nuclear power plants from service.

1. The share of nuclear power plants in national energetic balance (broken down by countries).
2. Current distribution nuclear power plant capacities by world regions (entire world is 100%).
3. Estimated capacities of world nuclear power plants for 2000, 2005, 2010 and 2015.
4. Possible options of nuclear power plant development.

1. Active units of nuclear power plants in Russia.
2. Comparative costs of different power plants.

1. Principal diagram of the open fuel cycle of nuclear energetics.
2. Changes in nuclear fuel composition during the open fuel cycle for the reactor VVAR - 1000.

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