Japan’s hopes of keeping its nuclear fuel recycling program alive faces another major obstacle with signs from France that a reactor project there will be scaled back because of swelling construction costs. After the nuclear fuel recycling program suffered a heavy blow with the decision in late 2016 to decommission the Monju prototype fast-breeder reactor, government officials turned to France’s ASTRID program as an alternative information source for the fuel recycling plan. But French government officials said the Advanced Sodium Technological Reactor for Industrial Demonstration will have its planned power generation scaled back from the initial plan of 600 megawatts of electricity to between 100 and 200 megawatts. The major aim of the nuclear fuel recycling program is to reprocess spent nuclear fuel to extract plutonium, which would be used to create mixed-oxide fuel that could be burned in nuclear reactors. Government officials had hoped to use various technologies emerging from the ASTRID program to eventually construct a demonstration fast reactor in Japan. But a scaled-back ASTRID would mean knowledge needed for the demonstration reactor would not be available. According to several government sources, French government officials informed their Japanese counterparts of the planned reduction in the ASTRID power generation plan due mainly to the high construction costs. French officials also inquired about the possibility of Japan shouldering half the ASTRID construction burden, which could run anywhere between several hundreds of billions of yen to about 1 trillion yen ($9.2 billion). Plans call for constructing the ASTRID in France with construction to start sometime after 2023.
Asahi Shimbun 31st May 2018 read more »