Russian nuclear fuel company Tvel (part of state nuclear corporation Rosatom) has signed a contract with the China Institute of Atomic Energy (CIAE) to supply fuel for the China Experimental Fast Reactor (CEFR).

The $50m contract  will enter into force on 10 January, Tvel said in a statement on 28 December. It covers the production and supply of fuel assemblies in 2017 and 2018 for loading into the unit in 2019, Rosatom said. The CIAE, some 400km from Beijing, hosts  China's first fast nuclear reactor, a sodium-cooled, pool-type BN-20 unit, which was constructed by Russia's OKBM Afrikantov in collaboration with OKB Gidropress, NIKIET and Kurchatov Institute.

The 20MWe (65MWt) CEFR uses highly enriched uranium (HEU) fuel of 64.4% enrichment imported from Russia. Its purpose is to provide China with fast-reactor design, construction and operational experience and is a key facility for testing and researching components and materials to be used in subsequent fast reactors. It achieved first criticality in July 2010 and started generating power in July 2011. It operated at full capacity for the first time in December 2014. Core height is 45cm, and it has 150kg plutonium (98kg Pu-239). Temperature reactivity and power reactivity are both negative.

Tvel and CIAE have been collaborating since 1999 during which time Tvel has delivered several loads of Russian nuclear fuel for the CEFR. The new agreement was signed during a visit to China by a Tvel delegation in December. Tvel has invited CIEA managers to visit its enrichment plants in Russia in the first half of 2017, and CIAE has invited Tvel president Yury Olenin to visit the institute in April.