Production reactors were developed to meet the demand for special nuclear materials — plutonium and tritium — in order to implement the nuclear weapons production program. The first Production Uranium-Graphite Reactor (PUGR) — PUGR “A” — was developed and commissioned in 1948 by Mayak Production Association (Ozersk, Chelyabinsk region, Russia). For this reactor, JSC “Afrikantov OKBM” developed a fuel discharge mechanism.
Starting from 1948, JSC “Afrikantov OKBM”, as a chief designer, developed a series of production reactor designs — Production Uranium-Graphite Reactors (PUGRs) and Heavy-Water Reactors (HWRs). In the 1950s and in the early 1960s, companies located in the towns of Seversk, Zheleznogorsk and Ozersk, Russia used these designs to build 5 PUGRs and 2 HWRs. During the same period, 3 research heavy water reactors were designed and commissioned — one in A.I. Alikhanov Institute of Theoretical and Experimental Physics (ITEP), Moscow, Russia, and the other two at research centers in Yugoslavia and China.
In the 1960s, JSC “Afrikantov OKBM” developed designs for improved new-generation PUGRs, which in addition to producing weapon-grade plutonium also generated electricity and heat for industrial and civil facilities — these PUGRs were ones of the first nuclear cogeneration plants in the world. The total of 4 such reactors were constructed. All the PUGRs have been shut down.
In accordance with the intergovernmental agreements between the U.S. and Russia, weapon-grade plutonium production was terminated. However, the absence of sufficient generating capacities in the towns of Zheleznogorsk and Tomsk, Russia required that operation of the ADE-2, ADE-4 and ADE-5 reactors be continued.
The work to extend the operation life and to enhance safety of these three reactors was being done on a regular basis starting from 1984. The primary goal of the implemented activities was to enhance the reliability and the effectiveness of the control and protection systems, of the emergency cooldown systems and of the power supply in these reactors, to improve the engineered features for stabilizing the graphite stack, to enhance the thermal reliability of the reactors, to optimize the reactor loading and power uprate.
The implemented activities, good work management, high qualifications and the initiative of Siberian Chemical Combine’s employees enabled the ADE-2, ADE-4 and ADE-5 production uranium-graphite reactors to operate for the time more than twice the design operation life. The operating time of these reactors is unique in the entire history of nuclear power industry. The last one of these reactors, ADE-2, was shut down in 2010 after being in operation for 46 years. These reactors are basically the ones of the few test beds to develop the safety enhancement technologies and lifetime management technologies, which are in high demand in the nuclear power industry. Currently, unique activities are in progress to decommission the PUGRs.
In 1988, the development of the L-2 advanced heavy water reactor to replace the earlier constructed and decommissioned heavy water reactors was a new step in the development of the heavy water reactor technology. At the same time, a task was successfully solved to switch this reactor over to the commercial operation mode with organizing the production of radioactive isotopes for industrial, medical and scientific applications in order to meet the demand at the domestic and world’s markets.
It should be noted that the unique experience was gained by OKBM’s and nuclear industry specialists who dismantled the decommissioned OK-190 heavy water reactor and who installed a new reactor and systems into the existing vessel, which enabled the construction time to be considerably cut down and a number of already existing systems and equipment to be incorporated. A part of this equipment, including a part of the primary circuit equipment, is still reliably functioning while coming up to the service life of 60 years.
Specialists of JSC “Afrikantov OKBM” were given The 2004 Prize of the Government of the Russian Federation in the Field of Science and Technology for the development, validation and introduction of the mixed operation modes for the reactors at Mayak Production Association in order to guaranteedly provide the nuclear defense complex of Russia with the products for defense applications for the long term.
Specialists of JSC “Afrikantov OKBM” were given The 2009 Prize of the Government of the Russian Federation in the Field of Science and Technology for the development of the scientific bases and for introducing a set of technologies for safety enhancement and service life extension of nuclear co-generation plants with production uranium-graphite reactors.
Currently, in accordance with the decree of the Government of the Russian Federation, activities have been deployed to develop a new reactor complex. In this project, JSC “Afrikantov OKBM” is a chief designer of the reactor plant and a lead designer of a number of systems and equipment. Field supervision is provided for operation of the L-2 reactor; activities are in progress to decommission the shut down production uranium-graphite reactors (PUGRs).
The experience that JSC “Afrikantov OKBM” has gained in more than fifty years of working in the area of production reactor technologies is widely used to develop various types of reactor plants for different applications.