On March 14, a strategic working group (WG) of the Council on Fast Reactor Development, under the Agency for Natural Resources and Energy (ANRE), decided to carry out a public invitation, by mid-April, toward the selection of specifications for the most promising sodium-cooled fast reactor concept, as well as for a core company for the effort.
The working group has been engaged in working-level deliberations on fast reactor development. The aim of the process is to narrow down technological options, step by step, toward the determination of a conceptual design and development of a demonstration reactor beginning in 2024.
Last fall, the working group presented a revised proposal for a strategic road map: namely, the selection of concept specifications in summer 2023, with a conceptual design and R&D for a demonstration reactor to be developed between FY24 and FY28. The transition to a basic design and procedures for permits and licensing for the demonstration reactor is slated for 2028 or so. The proposal was approved at a ministerial meeting on nuclear energy.
At the meeting on March 14, prior to the public invitation, the ANRE presented the following items to be evaluated:
- Technology readiness level (TRL)
- Marketability for practical implementation
- Systems for actual development and international cooperation
- Ability to respond to regulation at the time of practical implementation
- Total prospects for business feasibility
Specifically emphasized as requirements for a core company are (1) maintaining overall engineering capability, (2) demonstrating achievement and performance records sufficient to be the hub of the entire industry in Japan, and (3) having specific means and domestically sustainable core technologies considering Japan’s political objective of maintaining and developing its own supply chains.
Regarding the decision, Executive Vice President ITAKURA Yasuhiro of the Japan Atomic Energy Agency (JAEA) said, “This is a big step toward the practical implementation of fast reactors. We want to put our full effort into their development.”
Meanwhile, Vice President MATSUMURA Takao of the Kansai Electric Power Co., who chairs the nuclear development committee of the Federation of Electric Power Companies of Japan (FEPC), said, “Specifications for the reactor concept, the core of its development, and the selection of a core company are all very important processes toward the conceptual design of a demonstration reactor.”
Both men stressed the importance of R&D using the experimental reactor Joyo and development elements, including economic efficiency, with a constant eye on practical implementation.