Russia’s Nuclear Fuel Cycle

Russia uses about 3800 tonnes of natural uranium per year. After enrichment, this becomes 190 tU enriched to 4.3% for 9 VVER-1000 reactors (at 2004, now 13), 60 tU enriched to 3.6% for 6 VVER-440s, 350 tU enriched to 2.0% for 11 RBMK units, and 6 tU enriched to 20% (with 9 tU depleted) for the BN-600. Some 90 tU recycled supplements the RBMK supply at about 2% enrichment. This RepU arises from reprocessing the used fuel from BN, VVER-440 and marine and research reactors.


(Updated July 2014)

  • A major increase in uranium mine production is planned.
  • There is increasing international involvement in parts of Russia’s fuel cycle.
  • Exports are a major Russian political and economic objective.


  1. Uranium resources and mining
    Russia has substantial economic resources of uranium, with about 10% of world reasonably assured resources plus inferred resources up to US$ 130/kg – 487,000 tonnes U (2011 ‚Red Book‘). Historic uranium exploration expenditure is reported to have been about $4 billion. The Federal Natural Resources Management Agency (Rosnedra) reported that Russian uranium reserves grew by 15% in 2009, particularly through exploration in the Urals and Kalmykia Republic, north of the Caspian Sea.
    Domestic mining
    In 2009 the government accepted Rosatom’s proposal for ARMZ and Elkonsky Mining and Metallurgical Combine to set up the “open-type joint stock company” EGMK-Project. The state’s contribution through Rosatom to the EGMK-Project authorized capital will be RUR 2.657 billion, including RUR 2.391 billion in 2009 and RUR 0.266 billion in 2010. EGMK-Project is being set up to draw up the project and design documentation for Elkonsky Mining and Metallurgical Combine (see below).
    The Russian Federation’s main uranium deposits are in four districts:
    1. The Trans-Ural district in the Kurgan region between Chelyabinsk and Omsk.
    2. Streltsovskiy in the Transbaikal or Chita region of SE Siberia near the Chinese and Mongolian borders.
    3. The Vitimsky district in Buryatia about 500 km northwest of the Chita region.
    4. The more recently discovered remote Elkon district in the Sakha Republic (Yakutia) some 1200 km north-northeast of the Chita region.
    Present production by ARMZ is principally from the Streltsovskiy district, where major uranium deposits were discovered in 1967, leading to large-scale mining, originally with few environmental controls. These are volcanogenic caldera-related deposits. Krasnokamensk is the main town serving the mines.In 2008 ARMZ said that it intended to triple production to 10,300 tU per year by 2015, with some help from Cameco, Mitsui and local investors. ARMZ planned to invest RUR 203 billion (US$ 6.1billion) in the development of uranium mining in Russia in 2008-2015. It aimed for 20,000 tU per year by 2024. Total cost was projected at RUR 67 billion ($2 billion), mostly at Priargunsky, with RUR 4.8 billion ($144 million) there by end of 2009 including a new $30 million, 500 tonne per day sulfuric acid plant commissioned in 2009, replacing a 1976 acid plant.
  2. Fuel Cycle Facilities: front end
  3. International Uranium Enrichment Centre (IUEC)
    The IUEC concept was inaugurated at the end of 2006 in collaboration with Kazakhstan, and in March 2007 the IAEA agreed to set up a working group and continue developing the proposal. In September 2007 the joint stock company Angarsk International Uranium Enrichment Centre (JSC Angarsk IUEC) was registered and a year later Rostechnadzor licensed the Centre. Late in 2008 Ukraine’s Nuclear Fuel Holding Company, SC Nuclear Fuel, decided to take a 10% stake in it, matching Kazatomprom’s 10%, and this was effected in October 2010. Armenia finalised its 10% share in IUEC in May 2012 (2600 shares for RUR 2.6 million), while accession negotiations proceed with South Africa, Vietnam, Bulgaria, UAE, and others. Mongolia in 2010 was interested, in connection with Russian uranium interests there. Russia also invited India to participate in order to secure fuel for its Kudankulam plant. The aim is for Techsnabexport/TVEL eventually to hold only 51%. Each of the 26,000 IUEC shares is priced at RUR 1000.
    Present equity in JSC Angarsk IUEC: TVEL 70%, Kazatomprom 10%, Ukraine 10%, Armenia 10%.
    Russia’s Duma passed a new Federal Law on Radioactive Waste Management in June 2011, after 19 months consideration and many amendments. It was passed by the state Council in July and then signed into law. It establishes a legal framework for radioactive waste management, provides for a national radwaste management system meeting the requirements of the Joint Convention on the Safe Management of Spent Nuclear Fuel and on the Safe Management of Radioactive Waste ratified by Russia in 2006. Rosatom and the National Operator for Radioactive Waste Management – FSUE NO RAO – will be responsible for coordination and execution of works associated with radwaste management, notably its disposal. The law establishes time limits for interim radwaste storage and volume limits for waste generators, and defines how they should bring wastes in condition suitable for disposal and transfer it to the national operator along with payment of disposal charges. Import and export of radwaste is banned. All newly-generated waste is the responsibility of its generators who will pay for its disposal and storage, with funds accumulated in the SC Rosatom’s bank account as a special fund.
  4. Used Fuel and Reprocessing
  5. Decommissioning
  6. Organisation
  7. Exports: fuel cycle
  8. International Outlook
  9. Research & Development
  10. Public Opinion
  11. Non-proliferation
  12. Appendix: Background: Soviet nuclear culture

World Nuclear Association