Nuclear bond between France and Japan

06 May 2014

Nuclear power remains important for France and Japan, the leaders of both countries have affirmed. The nations will cooperate on future reactor technology, while French and Japanese companies pursue commercial nuclear opportunities.

Abe and Hollande, May 2014 (Elysee) 460x275

A joint statement by prime minister Shinzo Abe and President Francois Hollande came yesterday during the former's visit to France (Image: Elysee)

Nuclear power policy has been completely revised in Japan since the accident at Fukushima Daiichi, eventually resulting in the conclusion that nuclear would remain an important source for the country. In France a nationwide consultation has taken place on a potential 'energy transition' which is likely to mandate a big increase in renewable energy. What this means for nuclear, which already supplies 75% of electricity with low cost and low environmental impact, remains to be seen when new policies are announced later this year.

Despite the uncertainty French President Francois Hollande announced: "We reached agreement, because nuclear energy will remain important for us in the future." He added, "We are committed to Generation IV nuclear reactors."

This refers to reactor technology in advance of that widely deployed now at power plants, which would give gains in fuel efficiency, waste management, economics and safety. But despite this technological path being mapped out for nuclear power decades ago, much research remains.

Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe named the Astrid (Advanced Sodium Technological Reactor for Industrial Demonstration) project as one area where Japan, through the Japan Atomic Energy Agency, would cooperate with France, through the CEA. The 600 MWe Astrid prototype would operate from about 2025, with a series of 1500 MWe units to follow. They would be fuelled by depleted uranium and plutonium in mixed-oxide fuel.

Two commercial nuclear interests were represented by France's willingness to offer goods and services to Japan in its mission to clean up and decommission Fukushima Daiichi, and that companies from both countries are jointly pitching to build new reactors in Turkey.

A package based on the Atmea1 design, from Areva and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, is in the late stages of negotiation for build at Sinop in Turkey. Apart from the Franco-Japanese design, the plant would be operated by GDF Suez with equity from Itochu. The same design is to be put forward for projects in Vietnam, said Hollande, apparently referring to Vietnam's nuclear power plant project at Vinh Hai, where four units are planned to start in the 2020s.

Decommissioning joint venture

During Abe's visit a joint venture company was created between Areva and Japan's Atox to focus on decommissioning and dismantling Japanese nuclear power plants. Areva said it would "provide its know-how and technology in the field of decommissioning while Atox... will adapt the solutions proposed by Areva to the specific needs of Japan." Atox has developed a heavy involvement in work at Fukushima Daiichi on top of its previous business areas of nuclear power plant maintenance, radioactive waste disposal and decommissioning.

Researched and written
by World Nuclear News