What is hidden inside the factory producing nuclear fuel within the city bounradies?
Last year, Chemical Concentrates Factory of Novosibirsk produced and sold 70% of the world consumption of lithium-7 isotope (1,300 kg) beating its own record. However, the factory specializes in nuclear fuel production which makes Novosibirsk citizens shiver while thinking about it. People say about an underground city belonging to the factory and some radioactive wind. So, let’s visit this mysterious place and find out which of that is true.
Chemical Concentrates Factory of Novosibirsk is one of the world leading producers of nuclear fuel for nuclear power plants and reactors of Russia and other countries. It is the only factory producing lithium metal and its salts in Russia. Its earnings for 9 months are estimated at 86 million dollars; 10 million 607 thousand dollars for export.
In this department, they produce fuel assemblies for nuclear reactors. This is what we call nuclear fuel for nuclear power plants. To enter the factory, you have to put on an overall, hat, shoe covers and mask.
Here, they work with uranium-bearing material.
“Factory Passport; Uranium Dioxide Powder Production”.
From here, they manage uranium dioxide powder production to later make fuel pellets out of it.
Workers of the factory carry out preventive maintenance on a regular basis. Its exhaust ventilation is on all the time filling the space with fresh air.
In these bi-cones, they keep uranium dioxide powder. They mix it with plasticizing agent for better pressing.
This device presses the mix to receive fuel pellets.
After that, fuel pellets go into the furnace. After hydrogen firing, they change their color and size.
All works are done inside those boxes to prevent contacting with environment.
Those flames are burning hydrogen. The temperature inside the furnace is over +1,750C; they fire their fuel pellets for over 20 hours.
Those black boxes are high-temperature furnaces.
They grind each fuel pellet to make it of the size they want and check it for cracks, splits and other defects.
Each 4.5 kg fuel pellet is equivalent to 640 kg of wood, 400 kg of coal, 360 m3 of gas and 350 kg of oil.
Uranium dioxide fuel pellets after firing.
They fill zirconium tubes with their fuel pellets to make fuel elements to make fuel assemblies or, in other words, nuclear fuel.
At the factory, you can find this Soviet-style soda machine which are extremely rare today.
It can wash your glass or fill it with soda or refrigerated water.
According to Department of Natural Resources and State Environmental Control, in 2010 Chemical Concentrates Factory of Novosibirsk did not have significant impacts on the environment.
A couple of hens live and lay eggs at the factory.
Workers weld a carcass for fuel assemblies. The type is the carcass depends on the fuel assembly modification.
Over 2,270 people work at the factory. Average age of the factory employee is 44.3 years old. Men make up 58% of the staff. Average salary exceeds $1,200.
They are going to install 312 fuel elements into this carcass.
Near the factory, there is a thermal power plant which discharges 7.5 as much radioactive substances as the factory.
This is a factory and atomic power engineering vet metalworker-assembler Victor Pustozerov. He is also a holder of two Orders of Labour Glory and one Order of Friendship.
The fuel assembly’s head and back end are the last to be installed.
They check each fuel assembly with special probes to make sure the distance between each fuel element is even. It is mostly done by women because this kind of work is very laborious.
They use these containers to transport their fuel assemblies to the customer.
Their nuclear fuel is used by nuclear power plants of Russia, Ukraine, China, India and Iran. The price they sell their nuclear fuel for is a commercial classified information.
This job is as dangerous as any other job at an industrial plant. They examine their employees on a regular basis and no industrial disease has been discovered lately.