IAEA, GIF call for faster deployment of next generation reactors

20 July 2020

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and the Generation IV International Forum (GIF) have called for greater efforts to support the early deployment of innovative nuclear reactor systems to address climate change. The appeal came during the 14th GIF-IAEA Interface Meeting​ held last week.

The BN-800 fast reactor in Russia (Image: Rosenergoatom)

Participants in the meeting, held virtually amid the global COVID-19 pandemic, reviewed progress on the research, design and development of innovative nuclear reactor systems, including in areas such as nuclear safety, proliferation resistance, economics, education and training.

"Participants called for stepping up action to support faster deployment of these innovative technologies, which can provide significant help as the world transitions to low-carbon energy systems," said Stefano Monti, head of the IAEA's Nuclear Power Technology Development Section, and co-chair of the 8 July meeting.

The IAEA and GIF agreed to follow up on recommendations made at the meeting, including by focusing research and development on using innovative reactors to produce hydrogen and other activities such as the integration of innovative nuclear systems with other low carbon energy sources.

"This longstanding and ongoing dialogue serves an important purpose: to connect the Agency's activities in support of R&D and innovation in nuclear power with a key international forum in which leading nuclear technology nations collaborate on R&D and discuss major deployment issues," said Mikhail Chudakov, the IAEA's deputy director general and the head of its Department of Nuclear Energy.

GIF - an initiative involving 13 countries - was set up in 2000 to carry out the R&D needed to establish the feasibility, safety and performance capabilities of next generation reactor systems, which incorporate major changes in design approaches, fuel, materials or systems configuration in comparison with existing technologies. The OECD Nuclear Energy Agency serves as the GIF technical secretariat. GIF has selected six reactor technologies for further R&D work, including the gas cooled fast reactor, lead cooled fast reactor, molten salt reactor, supercritical water-cooled reactor, sodium cooled fast reactor and very-high-temperature reactor.

China is completing the construction of an advanced modular high-temperature gas-cooled reactor and Russia already operates two sodium cooled fast reactors, the BN-600 and BN-800 at Beloyarsk. Compared with typical reactors, fast reactors produce up to 70 times more energy from their fuel by using 'fast' neutrons not slowed by a moderator, greatly enhancing the sustainability of nuclear energy. They can also significantly reduce the volume, toxicity and lifespan of final radioactive waste.

Researched and written by World Nuclear News