The French government has estimated that the new fast-breeder demonstration reactor ASTRID will cost roughly 5 billion euros (around 570 billion yen) to develop, and it wants to share that cost with Japan, it has been learned.
The Japanese government plans to conduct research with France on ASTRID (Advanced Sodium Technological Reactor for Industrial Demonstration) to develop a fast-breeder reactor that can replace its trouble-plagued sodium-cooled fast reactor Monju in Tsuruga, Fukui Prefecture.
While France reassures that the fruits of the research would be shared by both countries, some predict that the development cost may swell above estimates. As there remains resistance to sharing the colossal sum, the Japanese government is expected to consider the issue with caution.
Information on the development cost was provided to the Mainichi Shimbun by Francois Gauche, director of the nuclear energy division at the French Alternative Energies and Atomic Energy Commission (CEA), the equivalent of Japan's Agency for Natural Resources and Energy. He said that the cost was calculated unofficially within the CEA, and suggested that if the project became more detailed, the cost could increase.
The development of a fast reactor proceeds in stages, from an experimental reactor to a prototype to a demonstration reactor to a commercial one. The Japanese government hopes to develop its own commercial reactor using knowledge it obtains from participating in ASTRID's development. It is considering decommissioning its prototype reactor Monju, which has been plagued with problems and which would cost at least 540 billion yen more if it were restarted.
The Japanese and French governments agreed in 2014 to cooperate in developing a fast reactor. They will jointly research an emergency reactor cooling system for ASTRID and other issues, but no clear agreement has been reached on the development cost.
Gauche expressed hope that cooperation between the research teams of both countries would deepen and that in the end a joint team would be formed. He suggested a flexible approach to the division of research and costs, saying that if Japan appeared reluctant to share the cost, then France would respond to and consider the Japanese side's requests.
In the meantime, some Japanese government officials have raised doubts about whether the ASTRID project is progressing smoothly. Based on its design, earthquake resistance is said to be an issue for Japan if the reactor is to be introduced to the country, and it has been argued that it will be difficult for Japan to acquire knowledge from the project to develop its own commercial fast reactor in the future. On this point Gauche said that France and Japan were jointly considering whether the reactor's earthquake resistance meets Japanese standards.