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United States, France and Japan Increase Cooperation on Sodium-Cooled Fast Reactor Prototypes

February 1, 2008 - 11:13am


WASHINGTON, DC -The U.S Department of Energy (DOE), the French Atomic Energy Commission (CEA) and Japan Atomic Energy Agency (JAEA) today expanded cooperation to coordinate Sodium-Cooled Fast Reactor Prototype development through a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) signed by DOE Assistant Secretary for Nuclear Energy Dennis R. Spurgeon, CEA Chairman Alain Bugat and JAEA President Toshio Okazaki.  The MOU establishes a collaborative framework with the ultimate goal of deploying sodium-cooled fast reactor prototypes.  A sodium-cooled fast reactor uses liquid sodium to transfer heat, burning the plutonium and other transuranic elements in the process producing clean, safe nuclear power, less waste and increasing non-proliferation goals.

The U.S., France and Japan currently cooperate within the framework of the Global Nuclear Energy Partnership (GNEP) which seeks to expand the use of clean and affordable nuclear energy, as well as in the Generation IV International Forum (GIF) which furthers the research and development of future nuclear energy systems.  The sodium-cooled fast reactor technology is one of the most advanced nuclear technologies being researched to date and could potentially be used as an advanced recycling reactor, one of the key components of GNEP.  A prototype reactor is the first step to demonstrate the feasibility of the sodium-cooled fast reactor technology to accomplish GNEP objectives and to test advanced technologies that would allow these reactors to be built and operated by private industry on a large scale.

"This MOU supports the nuclear expansion and non-proliferation goals of the Global Nuclear Energy Partnership by expanding the signatory parties' cooperation on a technology that has shown great promise for the next generation of nuclear reactors", said Assistant Secretary Dennis Spurgeon.  "This agreement highlights the continued cooperation between the United States, France and Japan in expanding civilian nuclear energy in a safe, secure and environmentally sustainable manner."

The three countries will work together to establish design goals and high-level requirements for sodium-cooled fast reactor prototypes; identify common safety principles and key technical innovations to reduce capital, operating and maintenance costs.  This cooperation will enable important discussion on power levels, reactor types, fuel types and an appropriate timetable for the potential deployment of prototype facilities.

In addition, the participants plan to pursue joint infrastructure development activities to leverage existing, refurbished and new facilities to support development of the prototype reactors.  This could include facilities used for component or safety testing, fuel development, or irradiation and evaluation of materials.  There also exists the potential for additional countries to participate in this cooperation.

In signing the MOU, each of the parties affirms its intent to develop advanced fast reactor prototypes according to its respective national program's objectives, and recognizes that each country's individual development of sodium-cooled fast reactor technology should not be duplicative. This cooperation will utilize the technical expertise and resources required to deploy sodium-cooled fast reactor prototypes.

DOE has engaged with several international partners through bilateral agreements to advance research in proliferation-resistant technologies.  In September 2007 China, France, Japan, Russia and the United States hosted the second GNEP Ministerial in Vienna, Austria where 35 countries and three intergovernmental organizations attended the meeting and 16 nations signed the Statement of Principles to become GNEP partner countries.  Since the ministerial, Italy, Canada and the Republic of Korea, have become official partners by signing the GNEP Statement of Principles, which serves as the framework for the Partnership.

As part of President Bush's Advanced Energy Initiative, GNEP seeks to expand the use of clean, affordable nuclear energy to meet the growing worldwide demand for energy in ways that manage nuclear waste safely, advance non-proliferation objectives, and improve the environment.  Gen IV explores advances in nuclear energy system design and has engaged governments, industry, and the research community worldwide to broaden the opportunities for the use of nuclear energy.

For more information on DOE's international nuclear cooperation and to read the MOU, visit the Office of Nuclear Energy.

Media contact(s):

Angela Hill, (202) 586-4940