Partners strengthen FBR cooperation

13 October 2010

Japan, France and the USA have signed a revised version of their 2008 memorandum of understanding (MoU) in order to renew and expand their collaboration in fast breeder reactor (FBR) research and development. 


The revised MoU was signed on 4 October by the French Atomic Energy and Alternative Energies Commission (CEA), the US Department of Energy (DoE) and the Japan Atomic Energy Agency (JAEA). It was signed on the sidelines of a meeting of the Generation IV International Forum (GIF) in Pretoria, South Africa.


In a joint statement, the organizations said: "This MoU enables continued coordination among JAEA, CEA and DoE on proto/demo sodium-cooled fast reactor (SFR) concept development consistent with each country's nuclear energy programmatic goals. The MoU advances the SFR development process by exploring practical collaborations involving technology providers in each organisation's country."


Both Japan and France have definitive timetables for deployment of SFRs. Japan has been conducting research and working on the design of a demonstration reactor to succeed the Monju prototype FBR. France is developing the Advanced Sodium Technical Reactor for Industrial Demonstration (Astrid). Work in the USA, meanwhile, is focused on system evaluations, material issues, safety analyses and implications of SFRs for management of used nuclear fuel.


"Under the existing MoU, the organisations have discussed common design requirements, comparison of reactor types, and the technologies and facilities that enable research and development (R&D) cooperation on future SFRs," the joint statement said. "The organisations have confirmed that both pool and loop configurations are technologically feasible and found broad collaborative areas independent from those specific configurations."


The parties noted, "With this new MoU, the organizations intend to share information and engage in collaboration on the harmonization of SFR development through identification of possible complementary R&D areas relating to fast reactor and related fuel cycle technologies." They will formulate a plan to reflect operational experience of fast reactor operations (from Joyo, Monju, Phenix, Superphenix, EBR-II and  FFTF) in the design of a demonstration fast reactor.


Other topics for sharing include safety studies, system configurations, and advanced material development, toward the design and manufacture of equipment. The organisations will also consider ways to more effectively use facilities through the shared use of existing test facilities and other activities. The revised MoU also includes plans to get the private sector involved in FBR R&D.


The organisations said that through effective collaboration, the development costs of a demonstration SFR are likely to be significantly reduced, while the reactor's safety and reliability could also be raised. The cooperation also aims to develop internationally accepted standardisation for SFRs.


Fast neutron reactors offer the prospect of vastly more efficient use of uranium resources than in conventional power reactors, as well as the ability to burn actinides. Fast reactors have operated in various countries since the 1950s, with some producing electricity commercially.


Researched and written

by World Nuclear News