July 9, 2021

ROSATOM WORKS TO ADDRESS PROLIFERATION RISKS ASSOCIATED WITH EXPORTING FAST REACTORS AND CLOSED FUEL CYCLE FACILITIES

On March 18, 2021, Rosatom company Science and Innovations awarded a 60.0 million Rubles (USD $0.8 million) contract for comprehensive analysis of conditions for exporting fast reactors and technologies related to closed fuel cycle from a non-proliferation standpoint, as well as the development of recommendations on addressing identified proliferation risks.

Science and Innovations is a Rosatom company established to coordinate the integration of promising technologies developed by Rosatom companies and promoting the technologies to domestic and foreign markets. The company is an umbrella organization for multiple Rosatom research institutes, e.g. IPPE, Luch, RIAR, Khlopin Institute.

Types of reactors intended for export that should be assessed are lead cooled reactor BR-1200 (commercial version of pilot BREST-OD-300 reactor constructed at the SCC site) and BN-1200M (commercial version of pilot BN-800 reactor operating since 2015 at the site of Beloyarsk Nuclear Power Plant). Closed fuel cycle facilities to be assessed are facilities for fabrication of fast reactors fuel, as well as reprocessing and refabrication of spent fuel from the reactors (commercial version of pilot reprocessing and refabrication facilities constructed together with BREST-OD-300 reactors).

The contract was awarded to the All-Russian Institute of Technical Physics (VNIITF). According to procurement documentation, the contract was awarded to VNIITF through a non-competitive procurement procedure, as VNIITF is an organization leading R&D in its respective areas. The contract directly states that VNIITF should involve specialists from Rosatom organizations that have expertise in nuclear security and non-proliferation. This includes OKBM, IPPE, Moscow Engineering and Physics Institute (MEPhI), Eleron, and organizations established to manage Proriv (Breakthrough) Project.

Objectives of the contract include:

- Finalizing conditions for export of fast reactors and closed fuel cycle facilities to address security and proliferation risk associated with the export. The current version of export conditions is captured in the document named "Conditions for Exporting Power Units Based on Fast Reactors and Closed Fuel Cycle Facilities to Be Located at Reactors' Sites Taking into Account Requirements Associated with Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons" approved by Rosatom in 2018 (not available for review);

- Preparing suggestions on improving the domestic and international regulatory framework for the export;

- Preparing materials showing how security and proliferation risks are addressed for IAEA and other stakeholders.

Works under the contract include a detailed analysis of the regulatory framework and the current version of export conditions. The analysis should be completed by the end of November 2021. Details on topics to be reviewed are available below.

Finalized export conditions, suggestions regarding regulatory framework, and justification of security and non-proliferation should be done by the end of June 2022.

The contract requires that the analysis should take into account Russia's experience in exporting light water thermal reactors to multiple states, as well as exporting a fast reactor to a 'Nuclear Club' state, China. The contract also highlights that Russia and the IAEA, as well as other states and international organizations, have no experience in exporting technologies needed to develop closed fuel cycle facilities at reactor sites.

Key nuclear security and non-proliferation topics that VNIITF should address in the analysis:

- Key statements of valid Russian and international documents regulating the export of nuclear facilities, nuclear material, and nuclear technologies;

- Specifics of fast reactors as this relates to applying IAEA safeguards, including the need for additional technical and institutional measures (we assume that additional technical measures may include adjusting reactors' design);

- Potential proliferation risks associated with two options for exporting fast reactors and measures to address the risks. This includes identification of specific diversion points in a closed fuel cycle where undeclared production or theft of nuclear material may take place. The first option to be reviewed is supplying fast reactors and off-site closed fuel cycle facilities that would provide centralized supplies of fresh reactor fuel and accept spent fuel for reprocessing. The second option is supplying fast reactor and closed fuel cycle facility to be located at reactor's site and intended for feeding the reactor;

- Possibility that states importing the reactors or closed fuel cycle facilities violate non-proliferation commitments captured in agreements with Russia, as well as design solutions preventing the states from violating non-proliferation commitments

- Technical and institutional measures which can reduce proliferation risks for two export scenarios. The first scenario is exporting fast reactors with closed fuel cycle facilities. The second scenario is exporting reactors only;

- Possible ways to ensure that errors in determining plutonium quantities are so that the quantities can be determined with accuracy sufficient for MC&A of all plutonium in fast reactors and associated fuel cycle;

- Effectiveness of MC&A and PP against malicious acts;

- Classification of states considered as potential importers (customers), including by their experience in developing and using nuclear technologies;

- Approach to assessment of the attractiveness of nuclear material available in fuel cycle associated with the operation of fast reactors for actors committing the development of a nuclear explosive device, as well as ways to improve the approach.

VNIITF should develop the following deliverables based on the results of the analysis:

- Detailed analysis report and briefs for the general public and expert community;

- Possible options of Russia's participation in the operation of fast reactors and management of closed fuel cycle in foreign states importing fast reactors and closed fuel cycle facilities;

- Suggestions for adjusting IAEA safeguards to address specifics of fast reactors and closed fuel cycle facilities, including facilities located at reactors' sites;

- Suggestions on integrating and reconciling measures related to PP, nuclear safety, and IAEA safeguards. The suggestions should cover the early stages of the development of specific design for fast reactors with on-site closed fuel cycle facility intended for export;

- Measures for detecting and responding to the use of fast reactors and on-site closed fuel cycle facilities for producing and extracting undeclared nuclear material;

- Evaluation of costs and benefits associated with applying IAEA safeguards to exported reactors and fuel cycle facilities, including from a competitive advantages standpoint, as well as respective financial risks;

- Computer model of the fast reactor with on-site closed fuel cycle built in a hypothetical state. The model should simulate operational processes and measurements of quantities of plutonium and other material to assess proliferation risks;

- Report on computer simulation for IAEA. The simulation and report should cover the entire life cycle of fast reactor fuel, including fabrication of fuel assembly, reactor campaign, reprocessing of spent fuel assembly, and fabrication of new assembly using reprocessed material. The simulation and report should show how proliferation issues are addressed through the lifecycle.

The contract also includes market research and preparation of suggestions regarding the expansion to foreign markets. This would include inter alia reviews of competing foreign projects, defining expansion strategy to ensure Russia's leading position in foreign markets, including by developing and highlighting competitive advantages associated with a high level of security and low proliferation risks.

In early June VNIITF awarded subcontracts to receive expert support from three organizations:

- IPPE should analyze certain of the topics listed above as this relates to sodium-cooled reactors and associated fuel cycle facilities;

- Dollezhal Institute of energy technologies (NIKIET) should analyze certain of the topics listed above as this relates to lead cooled reactors and associated fuel cycle facilities;

- Organization established to manage Proriv (Breakthrough) Project should review the regulatory framework for exporting fast reactors and associated closed fuel cycle facilities and prepare suggestions on improving the framework, as well as conducting market research.

We assume that Rosatom will adjust and finalize specific export offers based on the results of the works listed above and will use the results for discussing the offers with IAEA, the international expert community, potential customers, and other stakeholders. We also believe that suggestions on adjusting regulatory framework and safeguards practices will benefit international discussion on these topics.

Sources:
1. Procurement #210315/117922/008 Comprehensive Research Based on '2018 Strategy' Aimed at Detailed Analysis of Conditions for Export of Fast Reactors and Closed Fuel Cycle Technologies. March 18, 2021;
2. Procurement #210608/0468/415 Analysis of Specifics of Sodium Cooled Reactors and Associated Closed Fuel Cycle Facilities from Non-Proliferation Standpoint. June 8, 2021;
3. Procurement #210608/0468/414 Analysis of Specifics of Lead Cooled Reactors and Associated Closed Fuel Cycle Facilities from Non-Proliferation Standpoint. June 8, 2021;
4. Procurement #210608/0468/412 Review of Technical and Legal Topics Related to Export of Fast Reactors and Closed Fuel Cycle Facilities. June 8, 2021.