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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Fast Reactor Production Starts in '15

Russia plans to start mass producing nuclear plants that use less uranium than regular light-water generators within a decade, said Nikolai Oshkanov, the director of the world's only commercial "fast" reactor.

"Uranium is getting pricier," Oshkanov said in an interview at the Beloyarsk plant in Zarechny, in the Sverdlovsk region. "Fast reactors have a future."

The United States agreed with France and Japan last year to develop fast reactors after placing the technology at the center of its blueprint for the industry. China and India are also researching the generators, which can run on spent fuel reprocessed from nuclear plants to reduce operating costs.

A plutonium-based fast reactor, the BN-1,800, may be ready for construction as early as 2015, with building costs about the same as Russia's VVER light-water reactors, Oshkanov said.

"We're looking for the next viable reactor," he said. "It seems that it'll be the BN-1,800."

Higher fuel efficiency, improved safety and a lack of long-term storage locations for spent nuclear fuel make fast reactors attractive for the industry, said Viktor Murogov, chief reactor scientist at the Kurchatov Institute in Moscow.

Uranium-235, the radioactive isotope of the metal used in nuclear plants for making fuel, accounts for less than 1 percent of natural uranium.

Prices for yellowcake, a form of uranium processed into fuel, more than doubled last year and reached $138 a pound in June, according to TradeTech industry pricing service.

Yellowcake prices may increase to as high as $200 a pound by 2009, according to UBS and Macquarie Bank.