Tag Archives: fast-breeder reactors

Dashing the Japanese Dream: nuclear self-sufficiency

Mihama Nuclear Plant, at Fukui Japan

Japan on December 21, 2016 formally pulled the plug on an $8.5 billion nuclear power project designed to realize a long-term aim for energy self-sufficiency after decades of development that yielded little electricity but plenty of controversy.  The move to shut the Monju prototype fast breeder reactor in Fukui prefecture west of Tokyo adds to a list of failed attempts around the world to make the technology commercially viable and potentially cut stockpiles of dangerous nuclear waste.

“We do not accept this,” Fukui Governor Issei Nishikawa told ministers involved in the decision.”…Nishikawa strongly backed the project because of the jobs and revenue it brought to a prefecture that relies heavily on nuclear installations. He said decommissioning work for Monju would not start without local government approval.  Four conventional commercial nuclear stations lie in close proximity to Monju, earning Fukui the nickname “nuclear alley.”

The Fukushima crisis sparked strong anti-nuclear sentiment in Japan, making it harder to pursue projects like the Monju facility which has faced accidents, cover-ups and regulatory breaches since construction began in 1985.  The plant was built to burn plutonium derived from the waste of reactors at Japan’s conventional nuclear plants and create more fuel than it used, closing the so-called nuclear fuel cycle and giving a country that relies on overseas supplies for most of its energy needs a home-grown electricity source.

Excerpts from  Japan pulls plug on Monju, ending $8.5 bln nuclear self-sufficiency push, Reuters, Dec. 21, 2016

Fourth Generation Nuclear Reactors: Japan and France

astrid

Shinzo Abe (Japan)  and French President Francois Hollande agreed to “intensify their civil nuclear research,” according to a joint statement issued Monday following a meeting between the two leaders in Paris.

As part of Abe’s state visit, the Japanese ministries of economy and science and France’s atomic research institute signed an accord to cooperate on a project for a so-called fourth generation fast-breeder reactor called Astrid. Fast-breeder generators are designed to produce, or “breed,” more fuel than they consume for reuse in nuclear fission…

In 2011..France earmarked €652 million ($905 million) to develop a 600-megawatt Astrid prototype by around 2020 with a plan to deploy a fleet starting in 2040. Astrid stands for Advanced Sodium Technological Reactor for Industrial Demonstration.  The generator is said to be of the fourth generation because it would come after a model being built now in France, Finland and China called the European Pressurized Reactor (EPR), which is considered third generation.

Future reactors like Astrid would be able to produce as much as 100 times more power using the same quantity of uranium fuel. They would also burn long-lived radioactive waste.

Even with Japan’s nuclear industry hobbled by the aftermath of Fukushima, the Abe government has been actively marketing Japanese nuclear technology around the world. Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd. and Areva signed a $22 billion agreement in May 2013 to build a nuclear power plant in Turkey, the first major order for Japan since the Fukushima disaster in 2011.

France decided to close its Superphenix fast-breeder reactor in 1998 following radioactive leaks. Japan’s Monju reactor is idled and has been plagued by challenges including a sodium leak. India has its own fast-breeder reactor program.

Excerpt, Japan to work with France on future fast-breeder atomic reactor, Bloomberg, May 6, 2014

See also Fourth Generation Nuclear Reactors