19 May 2023
On May 18, 2023, the IVG.1M research reactor of the National Nuclear Center of the Republic of Kazakhstan commenced its operation on low-enriched uranium (LEU) fuel after completion of operations on conversion and preparing all permits. The reactor reached the specified power level, and all reactor systems operated as normal.
This is a further significant achievement of the Republic of Kazakhstan in strengthening nuclear nonproliferation regime. The project is a part of joint efforts between RK and USA to minimize the use of highly-enriched uranium (HEU) and reduction of risk of illicit proliferation of fissile nuclear materials that could be used to generate weapons of mass destruction.
After the successful first “operating” startup, the round table “Power Startup of IVG.1M Reactor with LEU fuel: Achievements and Prospects” was held with participation of Ministry of Energy RK, the Ambassador of Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Canada to RK, the Kyrgyz Republic and Tajikistan Mr. Alan Hamson, Director for the Office of Conversion of the U.S. National Nuclear Security Administration Mr. Christopher Landers, representatives of the U.S. Embassy in Kazakhstan, scientific organizations of Kazakhstan and USA.
The Parties highlighted progress in the conversion of reactors and minimization of the use of highly-enriched uranium fuel in Kazakhstan, the effectiveness of the work performed and its high scientific-technical significance. The work performance on conversion allowed not only made it possible to obtain upgraded reactor with low-enriched fuel with improved output technical parameters, but also to considerably improve technical condition of reactor and auxiliary systems, as well as the infrastructure of “Baikal-1” complex, located at the STS.
Since 2010, specialists of Kazakhstan and USA have performed a large scope of work: calculation-analytical feasibility study of the reactor operation capabilities with a new core, production and testing of the experimental fuel, production, transportation and output control of standard LEU-fuel, realization of physical and power startup stages of the reactor.
The IVG.1M reactor is ready to continue experiments and renewed research works within the budgetary and commercial programs in the field of peaceful atom, for which leading international organizations are of interest.
At present, the National Nuclear Center of RK jointly with the U.S. Argonne National Laboratory are still studying the possibility of IGR reactor transfer to low-enriched fuel. The work on downblending of fresh HEU fuel of the IGR reactor at the Ulba Metallurgical Plant has already been completed, and preparations are ongoing to implement a similar task for the irradiated HEU fuel of this reactor.