JAEA to co-operate with MHI and Terrapower on fast reactor development

31 January 2022

Japan Atomic Energy Agency (JAEA), Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, Ltd (MHI), and Mitsubishi FBR Systems Co Ltd (MFBR) have and signed a Memorandum of Understanding with US-based Terrapower on development of sodium-cooled fast reactor technology.

Terrapower (launched by Bill Gates) is developing a sodium-cooled fast reactor, Natrium, with US Department of Energy (DOE) support.  

“The movement toward the realisation of carbon neutrality, which eliminates greenhouse gas emissions as a whole, is accelerating worldwide, and the importance of nuclear power as decarbonisation energy has been acknowledged in many countries,” MHI said.

“Japan will also accelerate innovations in various nuclear technologies in collaboration with the development of next-generation innovative reactors overseas. As part of this, with the support of the US Department of Energy Advanced Reactor Design Demonstration Program (ARDP), we are trying to promote fast reactor development cooperation. Through this memorandum, it will be possible to collaborate with domestic industries under JAEA.” 

MHI added: “In the future, through cooperation with TerraPower, we would like to develop cooperation in the development of fast reactors between Japan and the United States, and to maintain and improve our technological capabilities related to the development of fast reactors.”

MHI referred to Japan’s “Green Growth Strategy through Achieving Carbon Neutrality in 2050" from June 2021, which includes promoting the development of fast reactors through international  . MHI noted that Terrapower’s Natrium reactor is being developed jointly with GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy.

“Focusing on equipment design and manufacturing technology, JAEA, MHI, MFBR, and TerraPower will exchange information on each other's technologies relating to sodium-cooled reactors including refuelling machines and damaged fuel detection systems, MHI said.

“It was agreed to proceed with discussions on development cooperation for fast reactors including various technologies. As a Japanese industry, we will utilise the knowledge of Hitachi-GE Nuclear Energy, Toshiba Energy Systems, Fuji Electric, etc. involved in the construction of Joyo and Monju, and consider participating in cooperation.”

JAEA previously operated the Monju sodium-cooled fast reactor in Fukui Prefecture and the Joyo experimental fast reactor in Ibaraki Prefecture. However, fast reactor development stopped after the government decided to decommission Monju in 2016, following a long series of technical and financial problems, including leakage of sodium coolant in 1995.  

TerraPower is supported by cost-shared funding through DOE’s ARDP programme to test, licence and build an advanced reactor within the next seven years and has selected Kemmerer in Wyoming as the preferred site for its Natrium demonstration project - a 345MWe sodium-cooled fast reactor with a molten salt-based energy storage system. 

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