The Generation-IV International Forum (GIF) has taken a small but significant step forward with the signing of a new agreement allowing cooperation on construction projects as well as information sharing.

GIF will attempt to exploit the international research community’s resources and expertise to develop G-IV systems and allows participating countries to begin conducting joint research projects all over the world. Argentina, Brazil, Canada, the EU, France, Japan, South Africa, South Korea, Switzerland, the UK and USA comprise the forum.

“This research agreement will accelerate an international effort to develop Generation IV nuclear energy systems technology that will be safer, more reliable, cost-effective and more proliferation-resistant than any technology available today,” US Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman said.

The forum has apparently identified six next-generation technologies for development including: the Gas-Cooled Fast Reactor; the Sodium Fast Reactor; the Lead-Cooled Fast Reactor; the Molten Salt Reactor; the Supercritical Water Reactor; and the Very High Temperature Reactor.

The agreement opens the door to the next stage in the USA’s Next-Generation Nuclear Plant (NGNP) project, which would see a pilot G-IV hydrogen producing plant built at Idaho National Laboratory. France’s Areva has recently opened a New Plants Deployment business unit in the USA and is offering a helium-cooled modular reactor for the NGNP. The UK’s BNFL, meanwhile, is discussing a Westinghouse-led project to construct a pebble bed modular reactor in Idaho. Both systems broadly meet G-IV requirements and are capable of supplying a hydrogren production plant with heat.