The research and development of alternative nuclear technologies received a boost yesterday when the UK committed £12. 5 million ($18.6 million) to join a group of nine other governments and three utilities in a French test reactor.
The Jules Horowitz Reactor (JHR), under construction in Cadarache, France (the same southern city where the ITER fusion tokamak is rising) is scheduled for completion by 2016, at a cost of €750 million ($972 million). The JHR website says that the reactor will support the development of “different power reactor systems” including those based on “existing and future technologies.”
“It will have the potential to look at thorium fuels, fast reactors, novel fuel designs for SMRs (small modular reactors), etc.,” explained Adrian Bull, director of external relations at the UK’s National Nuclear Laboratory (NNL) in an email exchange.
NNL is the Sellafield, England-based privately run research lab owned by the UK’s Department of Energy and Climate Change. It is leading the UK’s involvement at JHR, where it joins government research groups from France, the Czech Republic, Japan, Spain, Belgium, India, Finland and Israel who were already active there.
The project also includes the European Commission, as well nuclear company Areva, French utility EDF, and Swedish utility Vattenfall.
“It’s vital that we cooperate on issues like safety and R&D,” said John Hayes, Minister of State for Energy at DECC, in a press release. “We are putting our money where our mouth is by confirming our contribution of £12.5m to the Jules Horowitz research reactor in France and guaranteeing the UK access rights to the project.”
NNL managing director Paul Howarth said the commitment to the JHR “is an important step towards returning the UK to the international ‘top table’ in the arena of civil nuclear R&D.”
The JHR will also supply hospitals with medical isotopes.
It is part of a fleet of six European Union “material test reactors” including the Halden Reactor in Norway, which will soon begin irradiating thorium fuel here, and which supplies heat to a nearby paper mill
JHR will replace the older Osiris Reactor, also in France. At 100 megawatts, it will be the largest of the European test reactors. France’s Alternative Energies and Atomic Energy Commission (CEA), a major backer at JHR, has also been involved in the others.
EUROPE’S NUCLEAR DOZEN
Also yesterday, the UK and 11 other EU nations in London announced a “Joint Ministerial Communique on Nuclear Energy in Europe” affirming collaboration on making nuclear “a part in the EU’s future low carbon energy mix.”
“It’s vital for our economy that we work with our European partners to make the EU a leading destination for investment in new low-carbon energy infrastructure,” said Ed Davey, the UK’s energy secretary (Hendry’s boss). “This communiqué signals a move to a stronger, better and closer working relationship between Member States on nuclear energy. By working together to enable low carbon energy projects to come forward we will go some way to reducing the EU’s carbon emissions and ensuring greater energy security.”
The 12 countries will hold their next ministerial meeting in the Czech Republic, a country where nuclear research includes a thorium-fueled molten salt reactor.
The 12 are the UK, France, the Czech Republic, Spain, Holland, Finland, Poland, Hungary, Slovakia, Bulgaria, Romania and Lithuania.
Photo from UK Department of Energy and Climate Change, via Flickr