A statement of intent to strengthen cooperation on fast neutron sodium-cooled reactors has been signed between the US Department of Energy (DOE) and the French Alternative Energies and Atomic Energy Commission (CEA). The partners have also a statement of intent to begin cooperation in the field of artificial intelligence.
The documents were signed yesterday in Washington, DC, by US Energy Secretary Rick Perry and CEA’s new Chairman François Jacq.
The DOE and CEA will explore areas of further collaboration on the development of fast neutron sodium-cooled reactors, ranging from modelling, simulation and validation, technology testing, access to supply chains, experimental facilities, and advanced materials.
In artificial intelligence, the CEA and DOE will work on technologies “to better transform data and information into knowledge and expertise to promote our respective goals,” the DOE said.
“Today’s signing demonstrates the shared commitment of France and the United States to nuclear power as an affordable, safe and secure source of clean energy. Our cooperation today will usher in the nuclear technologies of tomorrow.”
US Energy Secretary
The DOE and French institutions have cooperated in a wide range of technology areas over the past 50 years. These have included civil nuclear energy, basic science, environmental management, renewable energy and energy management systems.
“Such cooperation plays a key role in maintaining cost-competitiveness and reliability across the energy mix, benefiting both countries in the enhancement of transatlantic energy security,” according to the DOE.
“Research cooperation between DOE and CEA in the areas of artificial intelligence, civil nuclear power and nuclear security serves as an important pillar of innovation in the world today,” Perry said. “Today’s signing demonstrates the shared commitment of France and the United States to nuclear power as an affordable, safe and secure source of clean energy. Our cooperation today will usher in the nuclear technologies of tomorrow. Furthermore, today’s signing will help usher in the next-generation innovative technologies important to both our nations.”
Jacq added, “I am pleased to sign these statements on the very first day of my term as CEA’s chairman. CEA is a key actor of both the energy and the digital transitions, and I am confident our reinforced partnership with DOE in these two fields will help both our agencies fulfil their mission, for the benefit of our two countries.
France is developing the Advanced Sodium Technical Reactor for Industrial Demonstration (Astrid). Work in the USA, meanwhile, is focused on system evaluations, material issues, safety analyses and implications of sodium-cooled fast reactors for management of used nuclear fuel.
Astrid represents a technology platform that France would like to have available for use by around 2040. 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.
Fast neutron reactors offer the prospect of vastly more efficient use of uranium resources than in conventional power reactors, as well as the ability to burn actinides. Fast reactors have operated in various countries since the 1950s, with some producing electricity commercially. France itself has operated three such reactors since the 1960s, including Phenix, which operated from 1973 to 2009. The CEA was commissioned by the government to develop two fourth generation fast reactors including Astrid in 2006, and it was decided in 2009 to make Astrid a high R&D priority because of its potential as an actinide burner.
World Nuclear News