Russia seeks closer nuclear ties with Japan

06 April 2017

Russia is ready to build "effective and full-scale" cooperation with Japan in the peaceful uses of nuclear energy to harness the innovations of Russian scientists, Alexey Likhachov, director-general of state nuclear corporation Rosatom said this week. Likhachov began a working visit to Japan on 4 April, where he said in an interview with the Japan Times that cooperation between the two countries was "becoming an urgent necessity".

Likhachov's visit follows his signing in December of a memorandum of cooperation in peaceful uses of atomic energy with two Japanese ministries. One key area of cooperation under the agreement is post-accident recovery at the damaged Fukushima Daiichi plant. Likhachov told the Japanese newspaper that Russia is interested in creating a framework for cooperation - scientifically, technologically and financially.

On Russian assistance in Japan's recovery from the consequences of the 2011 accident, Likhachov noted that the Mitsubishi Research Institute had last month selected two Rosatom subsidiaries, RosRAO and Tenex, to conduct a feasibility study on the creation of a an integrated high-sensitivity neutron detector. This technology will be necessary, he said, for the most accurate "search and identification" of nuclear fuel fragments at the Fukushima Daiichi plant.

Likhachov also noted that the memorandum signed on 16 December enables the two countries to consider the creation of a "unified Russian-Japanese platform" to explore the promotion of innovative nuclear technologies based on the knowledge and experience of nuclear power engineers in both countries. Among such technologies, Likhachov referred to developments in fast neutron reactors, in which he said independent experts rank Rosatom as the world leader. Only in Russia - at the Beloyarsk nuclear power plant - are industrial scale fast neutron reactors in operation, he said.

Beloyarsk 4 - the BN-800 fast neutron reactor - started operating at 100% power for the first time in August last year and officially started commercial operation in November. The 789 MWe reactor is fuelled by a mix of uranium and plutonium oxides (MOX) arranged to produce new fuel material as it burns. Its capacity exceeds that of the world's second most powerful fast reactor - the 560 MWe BN-600 Beloyarsk 3.

Likhachov said that, owing to the fact Japan's geography means it has no indigenous reserves of uranium, "the raw material base for supplying fuel to its own nuclear power plants is therefore a topical issue for Tokyo".

Fast neutron reactors operate within a closed nuclear fuel cycle, requiring less uranium and leading to significantly less radioactive waste, he said, adding that Japanese specialists may one day participate in the work of MBIR - the multipurpose sodium-cooled fast neutron research reactor that is under construction at the site of the Research Institute of Atomic Reactors at Dmitrovgrad, which is in Russia's Ulyanovsk region. AEM-Technology announced last month it had started the manufacture of the reactor pressure vessel for MBIR.

This is a 150 MWt, sodium-cooled fast reactor that will have a design life of up to 50 years. It will be a multi-loop research reactor capable of testing lead, lead-bismuth and gas coolants, and running on MOX fuel. NIIAR intends to set up on-site closed fuel cycle facilities for the MBIR, using pyrochemical reprocessing it has developed at pilot scale.

Rosatom has said the MBIR project will be open to foreign collaboration, in connection with the International Atomic Energy Agency's International Project on Innovative Nuclear Reactors and Fuel Cycles (INPRO).

Researched and written
by World Nuclear News