France reconsiders Astrid fast reactor project

30 November 2018

France’s Atomic & Alternative Energies Commission (CEA) has presented options on a new generation of fast-breeder nuclear reactors to the French government and says talks are underway.

However, CEA did not confirm Japanese press reports that it had decided to halt research in to the Advanced Sodium Technological Reactor for Industrial Demonstration or Astrid project in 2019, with no plans to allocate a budget from 2020.

The Nikkei said France had informed Japan that the project would be ended. A CEA spokesman said it had discussed reducing Astrid’s capacity to a 100-200MW  research model from the commercial 600MW originally planned.

Japan viewed Astrid as central to its plans to recycle spent nuclear fuel and was expecting to cooperate with France on the project in order to continue its own research into fast breeder reactors. Japan cancelled its own $8.5 billion Monju prototype fast-breeder project in 2016.
 
In 2010, Astrid was granted a €652 million ($742 million) budget. Media reports estimate France has budgeted up to $900 million until 2019 to continue work on the project.

President Emmanuel Macron has confirmed that nuclear must remain a key part of France’s power supply and that research in the field must be continued, but he did not mention Astrid.

French officials had indicated last May that the Astrid project could be scaled back and had informed Japan of the plans citing high construction costs, Asahi Shimbun reported. French officials had reportedly inquired about the possibility of Japan contributing half the Astrid construction outlay.  



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