Baykal-1 (Baikal) Research Reactor Complex

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Last Updated: October 1, 2009
Location: Semipalatinsk Test Site
Subordinate To: Institute of Atomic Energy
Size: The complex has two research reactors and one subcritical assembly
Facility Status: Operational

The Baykal-1 complex houses two research reactors (IVG-1M and RA) and one subcritical assembly (Angara). During the Soviet era, the Baykal-1 reactor complex was a branch of Luch Scientific Production Association set up to test fuel elements of experimental nuclear rocket engines and fuel assemblies. [1] According to Yuriy Cherepnin, General Director of the National Nuclear Center of Kazakhstan, nuclear projects have accounted for no more than half of the activities at the test site since 1980. [2] The Soviet nuclear rocket engine program ended in the late 1980s, and today, funding for Baykal-1 comes primarily from the Kazakhstani government. [3]

Fissile Material

According to one source, three fresh fuel assemblies, each containing 200g of 90% HEU, are stored at Baykal-1. [4] Another source indicates that all fresh fuel (64 non-irradiated fuel assemblies containing 44kg of U-235) was returned to Russia by May 1998. [5]

MPC&A

Under the DOE MPC&A program, US specialists provided the Baykal-1 Reactor Complex with material accounting software and provided assistance in developing comprehensive MC&A procedures. [6] Physical protection upgrades, including metal and nuclear material detectors, hardened portals and access points, and alarm and communications systems, were also implemented. [7] The three-kilometer perimeter of the Baykal-1 facility is fenced and patrolled by a guard force from the Ministry of Internal Affairs. There have been no attempted thefts of material from this facility. [8] According to the US Department of Energy, all MPC&A upgrades were completed and the site was commissioned on 13 September 1997. [9]

Spent Fuel

From 1996 to 1998, 221 irradiated fuel assemblies containing 138kg of HEU were transferred in three shipments from Baykal-1 to the Sverdlovsk branch of NIKIET by VNIITF. The last shipment occurred on 25 May 1998. [10]

Activities

In accordance with Kazakhstani government plans to develop nuclear power, most of the work at the Baykal-1 complex is focused on reactor safety research under the International Thermonuclear Energy Reactor (ITER) program and the Cotels project. Scientists at Baykal-1 have proposed building a 7MW, water-cooled prototype nuclear power station at the site as part of Kazakhstan's nuclear power program. As of October 1997, about 250 people were working at the Baykal-1 facility (including support personnel). [11]

Reactors

IVG-1M

Type: One gas-cooled channel and 29 light water-cooled channels, water-moderated, heterogeneous vessel, thermal reactor with beryllium reflector; also referred to as tank. [12]
Power: 60MW [13]
Fuel: Approximately 4.6kg of U-235 enriched to 90%. [14]
Status: Operational

According to a discussion with the deputy chief engineer in September 1997, the IVG-1M reactor was completed in 1972 and reached first criticality on 7 March 1975 with a power rating of 40MW. [15] The core of the reactor has 30 cells for fuel channels, one of which is gas-cooled. The remaining channels are water-cooled. According to reports, this reactor was previously run by the Soviet Ministry of Medium Machine Building to fill orders from the Ministry of Defense. It was used primarily for experiments on developing nuclear rocket engine prototype. Reconstruction of the reactor to investigate accidents at nuclear power stations (for example, changing to gas-cooling from a water-cooling system) was stopped in 1996 due to a lack of funds. [16] In 1997, the reactor was in operation for only brief periods, about two or three times per year. [17] According to a 1997 interview with Timur Zhantikin, Director General of the Kazakhstan Atomic Energy Agency, IVG-IM is likely to be shut down due to financial problems. [18] One source identifies another research reactor at this location as the Sphinx, a 200MW channel type reactor. The year of criticality is not indicated. According to the source, the reactor is operated by the Kazakhstan Atomic Energy Agency. This may have been a reference to a planned third research reactor at the Baykal-1 Complex, which was begun, but never finished. For more information, see the National Nuclear Center's description of the reactor.

RA

Type: High temperature, gas-cooled, thermal neutron, zirconium hydride-moderated, heterogeneous vessel reactor with beryllium reflector. [19]
Power: The reactor had a capacity of 200MW, although it only reached 60MW. [20]
Fuel: The RA reactor core, with 10kg of U-235 enriched to 90%, was shipped to a storage facility in Russia in 1998. [21]
Status: Non-operational

The reactor reached first criticality in 1989 with a power rating of 500 kW. The RA reactor was converted from a nuclear rocket engine prototype into a research reactor in 1987, after the Soviet nuclear rocket engine project had ended. The reactor was previously run by the Soviet Ministry of Medium Machine Building to fulfill orders from the Ministry of Defense. [22]

(Sub)critical Assemblies

Angara

Type: The Angara (sub)critical assembly consists of two components, Lava and Slava. [23]

The Angara assembly was built in 1996. It is used to conduct research under the Cotels program on nuclear accidents at water-cooled reactors, by modeling the core of a reactor. A furnace liquefies up to 60kg of a mixture of zirconium oxide, uranium oxide and steel, and forces it into water. The experiments conducted using Angara are done under contract with a Japanese firm, Marumel (name as given). Roughly 10-12 people work at Angara on a regular basis, increasing to 20-25 people when preparing for an experiment. As of 1997, Angara was put into operation about every two weeks. [24]

Sources:
[1] "Tests Conducted Under the Programs of Space Nuclear Power Plant Development," Brochure distributed at the 2nd International Conference on Non-Proliferation Problems, Kurchatov, Kazakhstan, 14-17 September 1998.
[2] Gennadiy Chumachenko, "Teleutro," Russian PublicTelevision and Orbita networks, 21 July 1997; "Semipalatinsk Nuclear Rocket Engine Facility Outlined," FBIS-SOV-97-205.
[3] "Invitation for Cooperation," an undated National Nuclear Center of Kazakhstan marketing brochure.
[4] Emily Ewell, "International Conference on Nonproliferation Problems," NISNP trip report, September 1997, KAZ970900, pp. 10-12.
[5] "Transfer of the Research Reactor Highly Enriched Nuclear Fuel to Russia," 2nd International Conference on Non-Proliferation Problems, (Conference Brochure) Kurchatov, Kazakhstan, 14-17 September 1998, p. 14.
[6] Boris Kuznetsov et al., "Implementation of Material Control and Accounting at the Nuclear Facilities in Kazakhstan," Partnership for Nuclear Security: United States/Former Soviet Union Program of Cooperation on Nuclear Material Protection, Control, and Accounting (Washington, DC: Department of Energy, September 1998), pp. 237-242.
[7] "Department of Energy Nuclear Material Physical Protection Program in the Republic of Kazakhstan," Partnership for Nuclear Security: United States/Former Soviet Union Program of Cooperation on Nuclear Material Protection, Control, and Accounting (Washington, DC: Department of Energy, September 1998), pp. 243-247.
[8] Emily Ewell, "International Conference on Nonproliferation Problems," NISNP trip report, September 1997, KAZ970900, pp.12, 14.
[9] Boris Kuznetsov et al., "Implementation of Material Control and Accounting at the Nuclear Facilities in Kazakhstan," Partnership for Nuclear Security: United States/Former Soviet Union Program of Cooperation on Nuclear Material Protection, Control, and Accounting (Washington, DC: Department of Energy, September 1998), pp. 237-242.
[10] "Transfer of the Research Reactor Highly Enriched Nuclear Fuel to Russia," 2nd International Conference on Non-Proliferation Problems, (Conference Brochure) Kurchatov, Kazakhstan, 14-17 September 1998, p. 14; V. Ganzha et al., "Problems on Shipping High-Enriched Nuclear Materials," abstract of a paper presented at the 2nd International Conference on Non-Proliferation Problems, Kurchatov, Kazakhstan, 14-17 September 1998, pp. 35-37.
[11] "Invitation for Cooperation," an undated National Nuclear Center of Kazakhstan marketing brochure.
[12] Emily Ewell, "International Conference on Nonproliferation Problems," NISNP trip report, September 1997, KAZ970900, p. 15.
[13] NNC official, Presentation on the National Nuclear Center of Kazakhstan, CNS Seminar for Journalists, Almaty, Kazakhstan, 8-9 June 2001.
[14] "Nuclear Safety: Concerns With Nuclear Facilities And Other Sources of Radiation in the Former Soviet Union," GAO Report to the Honorable Bob Graham, GAO/RCED-96-4, November 1995, p. 23.
[15] Report done for CISNP, Kazakhstan Atomic Energy Agency, 7 July 1995.
[16] Sergey Borisov, "Ni zhuravlya v nebe, ni sinitsy v rukakh," Kazakhstanskaya Pravda, 2 February 1996, p. 3.
[17] Emily Ewell, "International Conference on Nonproliferation Problems," NISNP trip report, September 1997, KAZ970900, p. 11.
[18] NISNP Interview with Kazakhstani government official, 12 May 1997.
[19] Report done for NISNP, Kazakhstan Atomic Energy Agency, 7 July 1995.
[20] Emily Ewell, "International Conference on Nonproliferation Problems," NISNP trip report, September 1997, KAZ970900, p. 11.
[21] "Transfer of the Research Reactor Highly Enriched Nuclear Fuel to Russia." 2nd International Conference on Non-Proliferation Problems, (Conference Brochure) Kurchatov, Kazakhstan, 14-17 September 1998, p. 14; "Fuel for Rocket with Nuclear Propulsion Shipped Out of Kazakhstan," Bellona: Nuclear Chronicle from Russia, September/October 1998, p. 14; "Nuclear Safety: Concerns with Nuclear Facilities and Other Sources of Radiation in the Former Soviet Union," GAO Report to the Honorable Bob Graham, GAO/RCED-96-4, November 1995, p. 23.
[22] Emily Ewell, "Trip Report - Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, and Ukraine," 21 June 1995, p. 18.
[23] Emily Ewell, "International Conference on Nonproliferation Problems," NISNP trip report, September 1997, KAZ970900, p. 12.
[24] Emily Ewell, "International Conference on Nonproliferation Problems," NISNP trip report, September 1997, KAZ970900, p. 12.

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This material is produced independently for NTI by the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey and does not necessarily reflect the opinions of and has not been independently verified by NTI or its directors, officers, employees, or agents. Copyright 2017.