Japan Atomic Energy Agency Plans to Set up Office on Next-Generation Fast Nuclear Reactor with Private Sector

Yomiuri Shimbun file photo
A lab of the Japan Atomic Energy Agency in Tokai, Ibaraki Prefecture

The Japan Atomic Energy Agency has decided to set up a new office on July 1 jointly with the private sector for the development of a fast reactor.

Fast reactors, which are regarded as the next-generation nuclear power reactor, are capable of burning plutonium and other fuels more efficiently than conventional nuclear power reactors by utilizing the nature of high-speed neutrons, and use sodium as coolants to absorb heat for electric power generation. Though fast reactors can reduce the quantity of radioactive waste, there are hurdles in terms of maintenance and costs.

About 30 employees are expected to work for the new office, including those to be loaned from major electric power companies and related manufacturers. The new office aims to build a demonstration reactor as the successor to the Monju prototype reactor in Fukui Prefecture that is now being decommissioned.

The new office will select technologies for the production of nuclear fuels and other materials of the planned demonstration reactor in around 2026.

Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd. has been chosen as the core company for making concept designs and building the demonstration reactor. The JAEA will decide more detailed blueprints and whether to advance to procedures to obtain permits and approvals by around 2028, and aims to start operation of the demonstration reactor in the 2040s.