Procedure and Equipment for Safe Shipment of MNSR Fuel

This work was performed within the MNSR Conversion and Removal Program aimed at conversion HEU into LEU and HEU removal to the country of origin, i.e. China. The first removal under the Program was the removal of the GHARR-1 reactor core operated by the National Nuclear Research Institute of the Ghana Atomic Energy Commission (Accra, Ghana) and being one of the MNSR reactors designed and constructed by China in several countries (China, Pakistan, Ghana, Iran, Syria, Nigeria) in the 1980s and 2000s

A TUK-145/С packaging with a modified basket and certified as TUK-145/С-MNSR was selected for the shipment of the MNSR core and loose fuel rods to China. This packaging ensures the required safety level to comply with the IAEA requirements for the packages containing radioactive materials.

By order of the U.S. DOE and IAEA, the activities related to HEU fuel removal from the GHARR-1 site were carried out by the Sosny R&D Company.

The procedures were developed, the equipment was designed and fabricated to support the reactor defueling, loading of irradiated fuel into a shipping cask in Ghana, and reloading of the fuel from the shipping cask into a storage facility in China. The equipment consisted of a fully automatic teleoperated transfer cask for the core reloading from the reactor into the TUK-145/С-MNSR package. The experts of the Sosny R&D Company justified the safety of the operations.

In 2016, after the personnel training supervised and guided by the Sosny R&D Company, the core was withdrawn from the reactor and loaded into TUK-145/С-MNSR in practice. Non-irradiated fuel rods were loaded into a separate compartment of the TUK-145/С-MNSR basket.


Transfer cask

Transfer cask and frame to install the transfer cask above the GHARR-1 pool


The Russian certificate of approval was issued for the road and air shipment and endorsed in Ghana and China. In 2017, the HEU was delivered by air from Ghana to China in transit through Russia. The shipment was organized and implemented in full concordance with all national regulations regarding emergency response and overflying permits in dozens of transit countries.


Enclosing SKODA VPVR/M package with irradiated fuel into energy-absorbing container of TUK-145/С-MNSR at GHARR-1 facility

Loading TUK-145/С-MNSR on a semi-trailer into An-124-100 aircraft


 The procedure developed under the project is adaptable to any site housing a similar reactor. The experience in handling and transportation of the irradiated MNSR fuel contributed to follow-up projects, for instance, preparation of the spent fuel for shipment from Nigeria.

With a peculiar reactor infrastructure and administrative and security requirements in mind, the removal of the NIRR-1 spent fuel from Zaria Center for Energy Research and Training, Nigeria, required engineering solutions to modify the procedure and equipment for the reactor defueling and SNF packaging, as well as personnel training, and organizational arrangements in Nigeria.


Loading of the NIRR-1 SNF in Nigeria


In December 2018, an air shipment of the MNSR spent fuel from Nigeria to China took place. The designed organizational and technical measures enabled conducting the entire campaign within daylight hours.



The 10th Technical Meeting on Lessons Learned from the RRRFR Programme, Charleston, South Carolina, USA, 20-23 June 2016: Technology for Loading the Spent Fuel of the GHARR-1 MNSR Reactor into the Shipping Cask



Referenced sites:

IAEA: Supporting Nuclear Non-Proliferation: Ghana Converts Research Reactor from HEU to LEU Fuel

IAEA Imagebank







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