Constructing and operating new facilities for reprocessing Russia’s spent fuel and using the separated uranium, plutonium, and even the minor actinides in fuel for fast reactors would realize the goal of a closed fuel cycle. With today’s facilities, SNF from only some of Russia’s power reactors can be reprocessed and only the uranium is recycled. Russia currently separates the low-enrichment uranium from its VVER-400 reactors and mixes that uranium with more highly enriched uranium from its naval reactor SNF, BN-600 SNF, and research reactor SNF. The resulting uranium is used in fresh fuel for RBMK reactors. Plutonium also is separated and stored, and is planned to be used in the future in mixed oxide (MOX) fuel, and some test assemblies of MOX fuel have been tested successfully in the BOR-60 and BN-600 reactors.

The United States and Russia plan to make MOX fuel from plutonium declared “excess to national defense needs,” mostly through reductions in their stockpiles of nuclear weapons. There are no current plans to reprocess RBMK fuel, although earlier plans were to reprocess RBMK fuel at the RT-2 facility. Russia has taken only preliminary steps toward creating HLW repositories, which are required even as part of a “closed” nuclear fuel cycle.

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