Australia joins fourth generation reactor forum

03 May 2016

Australia is to become the 14th member of the Generation IV International Forum (GIF). In addition to accepting Australia's entry, last week the forum's policy group also elected a new chairman.

GIF was initiated in 2000 and formally chartered in mid-2001. It is an international collective representing governments of 13 countries where nuclear energy is significant now and also seen as vital for the future. Most are committed to joint development of the next generation of nuclear technology.

In its latest monthly news bulletin, the OECD Nuclear Energy Agency (NEA) said GIF's policy group met in Paris on 27-28 May and unanimously voted to accept Australia's bid to join.

The other members of the forum are Argentina, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Japan, Korea, Russia, South Africa, Switzerland, the UK and the USA, along with the European Union (through Euratom).

"Contributing to the global conversation on this level is an opportunity to assist in the research that is making nuclear technologies safer around the world in the long term."

Julie Bishop,
Australian minister for foreign affairs

Most of these are party to the 2005 Framework Agreement, which formally commits them to participate in the development of one or more Generation IV systems selected by GIF for further R&D.

The NEA describes the Framework Agreement as the world's first such accord aimed at the international development of advanced nuclear energy systems. In February 2015, the agreement was extended for another ten years, thereby paving the way for continued collaboration among participating countries.

The forum recognises six advanced nuclear power systems as most likely to be deployed first. These are the sodium-cooled fast reactor, the lead-cooled fast reactor, the very-high temperature reactor, the molten salt reactor and the gas-cooled fast reactor. GIF expects that some of these reactor designs could be demonstrated and commercially launched in around 2030-2040.

Christopher Pyne, Australia's minister for industry, innovation and science, said: "Australia's invitation to join this important global project marks an exciting opportunity to be at the forefront of global innovation in the nuclear industry." He added, "Inclusion in the GIF further strengthens Australia's position as a nation that has the research muscle to deliver innovations on the global stage. It reinforces the governments AUD1.1 billion National Innovation and Science Agenda, encouraging our best and brightest researchers to collaborate with international experts."

Minister for foreign affairs Julie Bishop commented, "Australia has firm non-proliferation goals and nuclear safety objectives, and contributing to the global conversation on this level is an opportunity to assist in the research that is making nuclear technologies safer around the world in the long term."

Australia produces about 80% of electricity from coal-fired plants, 12% from gas and 7% from hydro. This gives it a high output of carbon dioxide, which is the main reason for consideration of possible nuclear generation in the future. Low-cost power has been a competitive advantage of the country, and nearly 10% of its electricity is embedded in aluminium exports.

In September 2007, Australia joined the Global Nuclear Energy Partnership (GNEP). This partnership aimed to accelerate the development and deployment of advanced nuclear fuel cycle technologies while providing greater disincentives to the proliferation of nuclear weapons.

GNEP was succeeded by the International Framework for Nuclear Energy Cooperation in 2010. This is a partnership of countries aiming to ensure that new nuclear energy initiatives meet the highest standards of safety, security and non-proliferation.

Also at its recent meeting in Paris, GIF's policy group elected François Gauché - director of the nuclear energy division of the French Alternative Energies and Atomic Energy Commission - as its chairman for the 2016-2018 period.

Gauché will be supported by three vice-chairmen: John Kelly, Hideki Kamide and Hark Rho Kim.

The policy group is responsible for the overall steering of GIF co-operative efforts, establishing policies governing GIF activities, and interacting with third parties.

Researched and written
by World Nuclear News