History of NCCP
It was envisaged that construction would be carried out on the site that initially had been intended for building an automobile plant. This was an area of about 240 hectars with five unfinished production buildings. Construction started in 1949, and it was not only production buildings and engineering facilities, but also apartment houses and social amenities.
The main objective of the plant was fabrication of the fuel elements for the first Soviet production reactors. The manufacturing process comprised all operations from chemical, metallurgical and mechanical processing of uranium ore to finished fuel elements. At that time NCCP consisted of four mainline uranium-processing workshops and one experimental-production workshop, which was put into operation in 1950 and the next year the first mainline product was turned out. The estimated capacity of the plant for fabrication of uranium items was exceeded in 1953.
Initially, the plant’s output and yield ratio were quite low. This was attributed to the lack of special-purpose machinery, imperfection and complexity of manufacturing schemes, use of expensive materials and chemicals, high labour-intensity and health hazard.
In a short time, the plant’s team in cooperation with the branch institutes carried out enormous work to develop and implement novel technological processes and introduce new manufacturing equipment. This made it possible to considerably increase the production quality and the output. In the period 1960 – 1968 the ratio of defects of the fuel elements manifested during their operation in the nuclear reactors, decreased from 5,2% to 0,07%. In 1968 the output capacity increased by a factor of 7,5 as compared to 1953, and the cost of conversion operations was cut down by 13,8 times.
In the sixties of XX century a large-scale lithium production was set up at the plant. This is a manufacturing complex capable of processing the feedstock to obtain high-purity lithium and lithium salts, which are used in many branches of industry. This production promoted NCCP’s entry in the world market.
The vast expertise in handling fissile materials made it possible to start fabrication of the fuel elements and fuel assemblies for research reactors based on cermet composition of the nuclear fuel in the form of thin-walled three-layer tubes. This production is used by many nuclear research institutions.
Research reactor fuel assemblies are designed for generation of the neutron flux necessary for carrying out research and experiments in nuclear physics, reactor physics, physical metallurgy, commercial generation of radioisotopes. Fuel assembly structure consists of a seamless three-layer fuel element tube whose centre consists of uranium fuel composition, while periphery layers are represented by aluminum alloy claddings. Fuel elements may have various cross-sections and different uranium mass. The basis for implementation of fuel element design solutions are methods of hot co-extrusion and cold drawing using high-temperature gas swaging (so called “cartridge” technique).
This was the time of astounding growth of the Russian atomic energy. In 1980 NCCP set up capacities for mass-scale production of the fuel elements and fuel assemblies for high-power pressurized water reactors. Technical solutions envisaged fabrication of big quantities of VVER-1000 fuel assemblies for NPPs. The first VVER-1000 fuel assemblies were manufactured in 1980. In 1997 NCCP fabricated the first batch of VVER-440 fuel assemblies. At the first stage, this production consisted mainly of assembly operations. However, in the course of time the fabrication process underwent many changes. At present, it starts with fuel pellets powder production and incorporates all stages including fabrication of the main component parts.
The range of the products is continuously diversified in both nuclear and non-nuclear spheres. As an example, in 2006 NCCP put into operation the first line for the production of zeolite catalysts, which are used in oil refining and gas processing for fractionation of hydrocarbons. In 2011 the enterprise commenced fabrication of uranium-aluminum rods that are used for obtaining medical isotopes.
At present PJSC NCCP is affiliated with Fuel Company TVEL which was established in 1996 by a presidential decree with the purpose of consolidation of all Russian facilities specialized in mining natural uranium, manufacture and supply of the nuclear fuel for different power reactors.