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EURATOM to Continue Supporting R&D for Gen IV Nuclear Systems

Feb 5, 2016

The European Atomic Energy Community (Euratom) will continue participating in international collaboration for research and development of Generation IV nuclear energy systems after a recommendation of the EU Council of Ministers Working Group was published on 29 January 2016. The final adoption of this decision by the Council of Ministers is expected to follow imminently.

FORATOM, the voice of the European nuclear industry, commends the recommendation of the Council to extend Euratom’s participation in the Generation IV International Forum (GIF) for another period of 10 years (until 2026) and to continue in the pooling of effort to develop new nuclear energy system designs.

The European nuclear industry is characterised by a tradition of continuous innovation that has seen existing facilities steadily improve performance over time. The EU is a leader in nuclear expertise and can claim some of the best nuclear innovation and research in the world, relying on state of the art skills and infrastructures. Sustaining this leadership, the Horizon 2020 programme for research and innovation currently includes 29 nuclear-related projects financed by the EU.

The GIF recognises six advanced nuclear power systems as most likely to be deployed first: the sodium-cooled fast reactor (SFR), the lead-cooled fast reactor (LFR), the very high temperature reactor (VHTR), the molten salt reactor (MSR) and the gas-cooled fast reactor (GFR).

European nuclear research consortia are in the process of designing, developing and constructing four demonstration reactors using three of the six technologies listed above:

  • The ASTRID project, a prototype sodium-cooled fast reactor, will be built in Marcoule, France, starting around 2020.
  • The ALLEGRO project, a gas-cooled fast reactor demonstration project to be constructed in the Czech Republic, Hungary or Slovakia.
  • The ALFRED project, a lead-cooled fast reactor demonstration project will be built in Pitesti, Romania, starting in 2020.
  • Additionally, the MYRRHA research reactor project, a lead-bismuth cooled accelerator-driven fast neutron multi-purpose research reactor, is also being developed. Belgium’s SCK-CEN research centre leads the project which is already under construction and will be operational at Mol, Belgium, around 2020.

The ALLEGRO and MYRRHA projects are on the list of priority investments for the EU under the €315 billion Investment Plan launched by European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker.

Furthermore, through the European Sustainable Nuclear Industrial Initiative (ESNII) the EU has set out the research and innovation needs for the future of Generation IV fast reactor systems. ESNII coordinates the research for Generation IV reactors and its main objective is to maintain European leadership in fast spectrum reactor technologies that will excel in safety and will be able to achieve a more sustainable development of nuclear energy. It prioritises the development of the ASTRID, ALFRED and ALLEGRO projects as essential for Europe in order to maintain its skills and leadership in the international nuclear community. The realization of such initiatives will constitute a break-through in terms of nuclear energy sustainability in the long term and is believed essential for maintaining European leadership in the nuclear energy sector.

However, the development and demonstration of fast nuclear reactor technologies should be provided with adequate funding at EU level. It was estimated by the Sustainable Nuclear Energy Technology Platform (SNETP) in 2012 that the funding required for implementing the ESNII projects was €11 billion. The progress made worldwide in these technologies is significant and without adequate support on the EU level, an already existing gap between Europe and other global research and development projects, especially in the USA, Russia and China, will widen.

Further information can be found here.

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