MHI picked to lead development of Japanese fast reactor

July 25, 2023, 7:02AMNuclear News

Concept art of a tank type sodium-cooled fast reactor. (Image: MHI)

The Japanese government has chosen Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (MHI) to head up the conceptual design and research and development of a demonstration sodium-cooled fast reactor, the Tokyo-based engineering firm announced recently.

MHI is to oversee the work in partnership with Mitsubishi FBR Systems Inc. (MFBR), an MHI Group engineering company established in 2007 to develop and design fast breeder reactors.

Conceptual design work is scheduled to commence in fiscal year 2024, with operation of the unit slated for the 2040s.

Reactor roadmap: According to MHI’s announcement, in the strategic roadmap for fast-reactor development adopted by the Japanese Cabinet in December 2018, a policy was defined to assess the efficacy of several types of technologies to be developed following a competition among private-sector companies. The roadmap was subsequently revised by the Cabinet in December 2022, at which time two decisions were made: (1) to select a sodium-cooled fast reactor as the target of the conceptual design of the demonstration unit and (2) to select a manufacturer to serve as the core company in charge of the reactor’s design and requisite R&D.

MHI also noted that it was chosen in 2007 to lead a research program focused on fast reactors. “The selection was made by taking into consideration MHI’s technologies and experience cultivated through its participation in the development and construction of the Joyo experimental fast reactor and Monju prototype reactor,” the company said. “Subsequently, MHI, in partnership with MFBR . . . has been undertaking plant conceptual studies and R&D toward reactor realization. Considering the lessons learned from the Fukushima Daiichi accident in 2011, MHI proposed the concept of a safety-enhanced sodium fast reactor at the Generation IV International Forum . . . and, together with the Japan Atomic Energy Agency, led a study on global safety standardization. The resulting experience has been applied in the joint design and development of France’s next-generation fast reactors starting in 2014, as well as application of those results to a feasibility study regarding the reactor’s application in Japan, and a study of the plant concept is now under process.”

In case you missed it: Bellevue, Wash.–based TerraPower—developer of the 345-MWe Natrium demonstration sodium-cooled fast reactor, which is slated for deployment in southwest Wyoming next decade—signed a memorandum of understanding in January 2022 with the JAEA, MHI, and MFBR to share data and resources related to the development of advanced sodium fast reactor technology.

“As a nuclear innovation company, we value mutual learning with the broader global nuclear community and applying this expertise to ongoing efforts,” Chris Levesque, TerraPower president and chief executive officer, said at the time. “We appreciate the expertise that JAEA will bring to our project, and we are confident that our program will help them as they consider advanced reactors in Japan.”

Toshio Kodama, JAEA president, added that the pact would “contribute to further development of the U.S.–Japan cooperation on sodium cooled fast reactors,” as well as “provide a good opportunity for Japan to advance our SFR technologies toward carbon neutrality.”

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