29 Dec 2023 10:12

Kola scientists build Russia's first unit to produce boric acid from nuclear waste

MURMANSK. Dec 29 (Interfax) - Russian scientists have developed the country's first unit for producing boric acid from nuclear power plant (NPP) waste, the Kola Science Center (KSC) of the Russian Academy of Sciences reported.

The technology, developed by the KSC's Rare Elements and Mineral Chemistry and Technology Institute, has been introduced at the Kola NPP in Murmansk Region. Work on the technology began in 2015.

"The Kola NPP will now not have to buy boric acid abroad for the operation of the pressurized water reactor. On the contrary, it will be produced here, and in quantities that are three times greater than needed for our northern plant," the KSC said.

The technology makes it possible to extract grade A boric acid from sodium alloy solution for use in recurring NPP processes as a neutron capture agent to regulate the intensity of the nuclear chain reaction.

The unit has capacity to produce about 60-70 tonnes of acid per year, while the Kola NPP only needs 20-30 tonnes. The unit is expected to produce 500 liters of saline solution per hour.

Following quality assessment and a government environmental assessment, the Kola NPP plans to completely switch to its own boric acid before the end of 2025.

The KSC said it is prepared to install similar units at other NPPs with similar reactors. Russian industry uses about 25,000 tonnes of boric acid annually, but it is only produced by Dalnegorsky GOK LLC, the operator of Russia's only operating boron deposit, in Primorye, the center said, adding that demand for boric acid has increased amid sanctions and it has become a scarce commodity.

Meanwhile, the KSC institute, given additional production capacity, might start working on the next phase of its project. It will involve separating acids and alkalis using electrodialysis after extracting the boric acid. The obtained potassium and sodium hydroxides and nitric acid can also be used in NPP processes.

The Kola NPP, located 200 km south of Murmansk on the shores of Lake Imandra, is the largest power plant on the Kola Peninsula, with four 440 MW generating units with VVER reactors. The plant generates about 60% of Murmansk Region's electricity and also supplies power to Karelia.