Nuclear material transports - Czech contribution to a safer planet

22. 7. 2019

ÚJV (Nuclear Research Institute in Řež) is known to most Czech energy fans mainly as a workplace that supports the operation of our nuclear power plants. But few people know that the ÚJV´s know-how and special team have been part of one of the global security and anti-terrorism initiatives for many years. These are transports of irradiated nuclear fuel from research reactors - a material that requires very specific treatment and could represent a high risk of abuse without internationally coordinated cooperation.

Know-how from the Central Bohemian Valley

Highly enriched uranium (up to 90% of the U-235 isotope) previously used in research reactors is gradually returning to its countries of origin within the fight against world terrorism. Most of the current research reactors already use low-enriched fuel.

It started by the GTRI

In May 2004, the Global Threat Reduction Initiative (GTRI) was signed by the Presidents of the United States and the Russian Federation. The initiative also included a plan to transfer highly enriched Russian-origin nuclear fuel from research reactors back to the RF - a project called RRRFR (Russian Research Reactor Fuel Return).

800x800_ujvrez_4

Before commencing the transport operations, it was necessary to find the appropriate reliable technical background – packaging assemblies (spent fuel casks) and also specialists who could handle loading and handling in various conditions professionally. At the time, the ŠKODA VPVR/M packaging assembly, developed by ŠKODA JS in close cooperation with the NRI, won the rigorous tender procedure organized by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), where there was a tough competition. Among other things, ŘEŽ provided the necessary professional capacities and certificates. The pilot transport from the research reactor in NRI Řež (Czech Republic) took place in 2007. The course and the results regarding reliability, safety and quality, convinced the US Department of Energy (US DOE) to hire specialists from ÚJV for technical and engineering works in further transports from Asia and Central/Eastern Europe to the Russian Federation. Transports to Russia then took place in 2007-2015, during the nine years a total of 3,325.8 kg of uranium was transported, of which 711 kg was highly enriched uranium.

TRANSPORT OVERVIEW - the RRRFR PROGRAM

Date

Country

Reactor type

12/2007

Czech Rep.

LVR-15

7/2008

Bulgaria

IRT-2000

10/2008

Hungary

BRR

9/2009

Poland

EWA

2/2010

Poland

EWA

5/2010

Ukrajine

VVR-M

10/2010

Belarus

Pamir-630D and IRT-M

11/2010

Serbia

RA

3/2012

Ukraine

VVR-M

10/2012

Poland

EWA

3/2013

Czech Rep.

LVR-M

7/2013

Vietnam

DNRR

11/2013

Hungary

BRR

9/2015

Uzbekistan

Foton

12/2015

Georgia

Breeder-1

Secret transports

The transport of irradiated material is always subject to strict security rules and, of course, takes place under the confidentiality mode. The public only learn about each task after its completion. Although the fuel is always shipped to its country of origin, the transport routes are varied. Packing assemblies are placed in containers on trucks, packed in special housings for air transport, which must withstand the crash of the aircraft, or stored in specially modified spaces of transport ships. Travel escorts of the loaded casks, however, are only a visible peak of the process. Furthermore, the ÚJV team takes care of the rental, maintenance, inspection and licensing of casks (ÚJV Řež owns 16 pieces), arranging the transport of empty casks to the place of loading and back to the Czech Republic when unloaded, obtaining the necessary permits, training local operators for loading, supervision over loading, drying and sealing of casks, inspecting their tightness.

China is next

Peak performance in transports to Russia helped ÚJV to obtain other prestigious contracts. New shipments are part of the international Miniature Neutron Source Reactor (MNSR) project, this is a plan to transport irradiated fuel from small Chinese MNSR reactors located in Africa and Asia back to China. Within this program, ÚJV has already successfully participated in the transport of fuel from African Ghana in 2016 and from Nigeria last and this year.

Keep learning!

Local specialists are also involved in the African transports; their detailed preparation is crucial for success. A special training center was built in Ghana under the auspices of the International Atomic Energy Agency and the US DOE in 2017 at the National Nuclear Research Institute, Accra. This training center is also equipped with models for training the handling of individual devices and serves for detailed training of local experts. The team from ÚJV also participates in the trainings. Recent shipments were preceded by four trainings for Nigerian workers in handling of the packaging assemblies, these took place in the summer of 2018.

 17 transports – and we go on

The Nigerian transport completed this year was the 17th transport since 2007. The total amount of highly enriched uranium transported has so far amounted to 713 kg, of which MNSR reactors made 2.2 kg. Other planned shipments relate to research facilities in Pakistan, Iran and Syria. The MNSR reactors will then be operated with a low enriched uranium.

Through the Nuclear Research Institute in Řež, the Czech Republic has long been involved in reducing the nuclear threat and in maintaining a safe planet for all of us.

Source: All for power, 22 July 2019

Loading...