The Independent Assessment of Nuclear Developments in the World

Home > News > WNISR in the Media > Reuters (UK): France reviews fast-breeder nuclear reactor project

Reuters (UK): France reviews fast-breeder nuclear reactor project

Saturday 1 December 2018

France reviews fast-breeder nuclear reactor project

* Once-promising looking nuclear technology now in question

* ASTRID reactor could be radically downsized (Adds CEA comment, detail)

Reuters, NOVEMBER 29, 2018 / 5:57 PM

TOKYO/PARIS, Nov 29 (Reuters) - France’s state-run nuclear agency said on Thursday it had presented options on a new generation of fast-breeder nuclear reactors to the French government and talks were underway but dismissed reports in Japan that it had taken a decision.

The Nikkei business daily reported that France had informed Japan it would halt research into the ASTRID (Advanced Sodium Technological Reactor for Industrial Demonstration) project in 2019, with no plans to allocate a budget from 2020.

A spokesman for the CEA nuclear agency said one option it had discussed was to reduce ASTRID’s capacity to a 100-200 megawatt (MW) research model from the commercial-sized 600 MW originally planned.

Japan’s Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said on Thursday he had not been informed about any French plans to freeze the project and that nothing has been decided.

In 2016, after decades of development, Japan pulled the plug on its own $8.5 billion Monju prototype fast-breeder project.

The ASTRID sodium-cooled reactor is one of several new "fourth-generation" designs that could succeed the pressurised water reactors that drive most of the world’s nuclear plants.

Instead of water, they use liquid sodium as a coolant. But sodium burns on contact with air and explodes when plunged into water. An earlier French model was scrapped in the 1980s after have encountering major technical problems.

Russia is the only nation to have working breeder reactors, which can burn spent uranium fuel, plutonium and other nuclear waste products.

In theory, breeders could turn utility EDF’s nuclear waste into fuel and make France self-sufficient in energy for decades. Their potential is part of the reason why France recycles spent fuel from EDF’s reactors, separating out plutonium in state-owned Orano’s reprocessing plant in La Hague.

“The likely abandoning of ASTRID should entail the rethink of the entire spent-fuel management scheme,” World Nuclear Industry Status Report author Mycle Schneider.

In 2010, the ASTRID project was granted a 652 million euro ($742 million) budget. Media reports have estimated France has budgeted up to 900 million euros through to 2019 for ASTRID.

President Emmanuel Macron said this week that nuclear will remain a key part of France’s power supply and that research in the field must be continued, but he did not mention ASTRID.

(Reporting by Kaori Kaneko and Osamu Tsukimori in Tokyo and Geert De Clercq in Paris Editing by Sherry Jacob-Phillips and David Evans)

What They Say…

“The Report sets forth in painstaking detail the actual experience and achievements of nuclear energy around the world.”

Peter A. Bradford

Former commissioner
U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC)
(in his foreword to the 2013 report)
“A vital public service... Uniquely independent, thorough, and timely assessment."

Amory B. Lovins

Chairman, Rocky Mountain Institute
“This annual publication has over 20 years evolved into the most reliable, strikingly original, comprehensive and penetrating assessment of the global nuclear industry.”

Praful Bidwai

Financial Chronicle
Delhi, India
"Amid the hype and PR, the smoke and mirrors, of the 'nuclear renaissance', the Status Report offers a hard-edged reality check."

Walt Patterson

Associate Fellow Chatham House
London, UK
“Fantastic piece of work. Must reading for any observer of nuclear energy."

Henri Sokolski

Executive Director Nonproliferation Policy Education Center
Washington DC, USA
“Reliable research based on cold, hard facts, unlike the hype and amnesia of industry sources.”

Scott Ludlam

“Félicitations pour la dernière édition du WNISR. Formidable comme d'habitude!”

Fulcieri Maltini

International Consultant Former Director of the Nuclear Safety Account, EBRD
“Thought-provoking as usual.”

Will Dalrymple

Editor Nuclear Engineering International
"The authoritative report on the status of nuclear power plants worldwide is the World Nuclear Industry Status Report."


Bangkok, Thailand
“Such an illuminating report.”

Sam Geall

Deputy Editor China Dialogue
London, UK
"An astounding collection of facts and figures, a myth-busting international overview… An eye-opening piece of work!"

R. Andreas Krämer

Chairman Ecologic Institute
Berlin, Germany
“I really appreciate you letting us excerpt your report! It’s incredibly well researched and comprehensive, so thank you!”

Stuart Luman

Associate Editor Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists