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26 December, 2018

ANRE’s Working Group Presents Strategic Road Map for Fast Reactor Development

On December 18, a working group of the Agency for Natural Resources and Energy (ANRE), under Japan’s Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI), discussed a draft of a strategic road map for fast reactor development.

The entities participating in the group include the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT), the Japan Atomic Energy Agency (JAEA), the Federation of Electric Power Companies (FEPC) and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (MHI).

In response to a request from a ministerial meeting on nuclear energy, the working group had been considering a strategic road map specifying a plan for developing fast reactors in the coming decade. At its previous meeting on December 3, it released an outline of the road map. 

The group has been considering the broader issues since the national government revealed its intention to decommission the prototype FBR Monju, carrying out interviews with governmental officials abroad. The draft of the road map includes information obtained through those discussions as part of the circumstances to date.

With the expectation that fast reactors will be fully utilized in the latter part of this century, future R&D will be carried out in three stages:

  1.  encouraging competition and trying various ideas (immediately for the next five years or so),
  2.  prioritizing support for specific areas (starting in 2024), and
  3.  addressing subsequent development issues and processes.

At the meeting on December 18, Chairman Ikuo Morinaka of the Nuclear Power Development and Policy Committee of FEPC referred to the necessity of a development system based on cooperation between the public and private sectors. He said, “It is extremely important to carry out the development with the understanding of society.”

Morinaka also expressed FEPC’s intention to work on the development of fast reactors in parallel with establishment of the nuclear fuel cycle, based on experience accumulated in the operation and maintenance of light water reactors (LWRs).

At the same meeting, Senior General Manager Akihiko Kato of MHI’s Nuclear Energy Systems Division of Power Systems said that his company, as a manufacturer, would contribute to the areas of technology and human resources. He commented, “We will develop fast reactors through innovation, while not forgetting what is proven in our experience with sodium-cooled reactors.”

Regarding R&D infrastructure for the development of fast reactors, JAEA Executive Vice President Yasushi Taguchi spoke at the meeting of the need to maintain and further use technological knowledge and experience that has been accumulated in such areas as sodium-cooled reactors and MOX fuel, as well as research facilities, including the experimental reactor Joyo.

He also referred to establishing a new R&D system responsive to societal needs, and activities to internationalize safety standards.

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