Russia’s BN-800 sodium-cooled fast neutron reactor at unit 4 of the Beloyarsk NPP near Yekaterinburg in Sverdlovsk Oblast began commercial operation on 31 October, Russian nuclear power operator Rosenergoatom said in a statement Russian state nuclear corporation Rosatom described the achievement as "one of the most important events of the year for Russian nuclear power".

The construction of BN-800 started in 1984 at Beloyarsk-4 but was put on hold after the 1986 Chernobyl accident and was further delayed by the financial collapse which followed the break up of the USSR in 1991. The design of the plant, which began in 1983, was completely revised in 1987 after Chernobyl, and again, to a lesser extent in 1993 to meet new safety guidelines. Construction  resumed in 2006 and the 789MWe (net) reactor unit, was brought to minimum controlled power for the first time in June 2014, at which time commercial operation was planned for the end of that year. However, in December 2014 Rosenergoatom announced that nuclear fuel for the unit would first be developed further. It was brought again to the minimum controlled power level in August 2015, and again in November 2015, eventually being connected to the grid on 10 December 2015.

Since then, operators have been gradually increasing the reactor’s power levels as part of the operational testing phase. Full power was achieved on 17 August. Before issuing the licence for commercial operation, Russia’s nuclear regulator Rostechnadzor carried out a series of tests confirming the unit’s compliance with the national regulatory framework, the statement said. Beloyarsk-4 is Russia’s first reactor of the BN-800 design and uses mixed oxide (mox) uranium-plutonium fuel.

The other commercially operational reactor at the Beloyarsk station is the smaller BN-600 sodium-cooled fast reactor at Beloyarsk-3, which began operation in 1980.  There are also two permanently shut-down light-water reactors which are awaiting decommissioning. Russia is considering further expansion of the Beloyarsk station with the construction of unit 5, which will have the larger 1,200MWe fast neutron reactor. However, a final decision on this depends on the operational results of Beloyarsk-4.

On 2 November, comprehensive testing was completed of a full-scale simulator for Beloyarsk-4. It comprises a complex modelling software and hardware complex, developed the All-Russian Research Institute for NPP Operation (VNIIAES) in cooperation with the Federal State Unitary Enterprise UEMZ (Ekaterinburg) and LLC "ENIMTS Simulation System" (Obninsk). The PMT BN-800 simulator provides initial training, retraining and qualification of NPP maintenance personnel, development of work procedures, operating power, an analysis of the technical solutions for the modernisation of technological systems, and modelling of possible violations.

Russia is to host the International Atomic Energy Agency’s (IAEA’s) International Conference on Fast Reactors and Related Fuel Cycles: Next Generation Nuclear Systems for Sustainable Development (FR17) in Yekaterinburg in June 2017. Vladimir Krivientsev, leader of the Fast Reactor Technology Development team in the IAEA's Department of Nuclear Energy, told AtomInfo.Ru that the conference will be the third of its kind. The first was held in 2009 in Kyoto, Japan, and the second   in Paris in 2013. Participants will be invited to visit to Beloyarsk NPP. The deadline for the submission of abstracts was 30 September 2016 but was extended to 10 October, by which time some 400 abstracts had been submitted, he said.