Scientists create the atomic energy of the future

Dr. Yuri Zaikov, Scientific Director at the Institute of High Temperature Electrochemistry of the Ural Branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences, the Head of the Department of Technologies of Electrochemical Production at the Ural Federal University, together with his colleagues, is creating a unique technology of nuclear fuel reprocessing that has no alternative in the world. The techonlogy will be carried out as part of the Rosatom’s ‘Breakthrough’ project. As a guest of the 66.RU portal ‘Man of Sciences’ project supported by UrFU, Dr. Zaikov shared on the ways of practical solution of the problem and what this scientific discovery will bring to the world.

Yuriy Zaikov – Scientific Director of the IHTE UB RAS, the Head of the Department of Technologies of Electrochemical Production of Ural Federal University

 Photo: Grigory Postnikov / 66.RU.

The Breakthrough project provides for the creation of a new energy industry based on the closed nuclear fuel cycle of fast neutron reactors. Today, the world’s only industrial fast neutron reactors operate at Beloyarskaya Nuclear Plant, near Ekaterinburg. Thanks to that, Russia has a significant advantage in atomic energy that needs to be maintained and developed, scientists say.

New life for reprocessing fuels

According to the Russian scientists, the energy of the future is the closed nuclear fuel cycle of fast neutron reactors. The picture is ecologically sustainable: we get spent nuclear fuel from the reactor, we remove the fission products of nuclear fuel, and we extract the fissile materials and return them to the refinery, thus receiving fuel, which is again sent to the reactor. The nuclear fuel cycle closes.

In 2026, we will issue the instructions, that will help the scientists design a module for the processing of nuclear fuel in the city of Seversk, at the Siberian Chemical Plant. The solution to this problem will determine the future of the energy market and the competitiveness of our nuclear technologies. In fact, we are participating in the creation of environmentally friendly atomic energy – something that the whole world is concerned about today. We compete with the research teams from the USA, South Korea, China, Japan, France.


Ekaterinburg has a strong scientific school of High Temperature Electrochemistry. Photo: Grigory Postnikov / 66.RU.

The development of technology and equipment requires modern mathematical models that use reliable experimental data, and digital twins that take into account operating conditions and emergency situations of the entire spent nuclear fuel reprocessing process. Mistakes cannot be made here, for sure.

Benefits of New Nuclear Power

1. Security. In a fast neutron reactor, liquid lead is not used for cooling. This will prevent accidents like the one that happened at Fukushima. In the case of liquid metal coolants, possible accident scenarios are excluded at the design stage.

2. Economic benefits. The electricity the fast reactors produce will be several times cheaper: the greater the depth of fuel burnup, the more economical is the atomic plant. Whereas in thermal reactors the degree of fuel burnup reaches about 3.5-4%, though in these reactors it is 12%, and in the long term we can even reach 15-17%.

3. Endless stocks. According to preliminary estimates, nuclear fuel reserves should be enough for 300 years, and the raw material base will only expand. In fast neutron reactors, the Uranium-238 can be used, and it is much more in nature than the Uranium-235, which is needed for thermal reactors.

 Photo: Grigory Postnikov / 66.RU.

Alternative Energy Issues

Renewable energy must be a priority. In order to supply Ekaterinburg with electric power, we will have to cover an area of 150 square kilometers with solar panels. So we cannot abandon nuclear energy leaving only alternative sources. It is clear that with such tempo the atomic energy only will develop.

The author: Aleksandra Morozova.