Cooperation between the U.S. and Japan in the field of nuclear energy has grown even closer.
In an online conference, Koichi Hagiuda, the Japanese minister of economy, trade and industry, and U.S. Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm announced plans for the Japanese government to work on developing plutonium-burning fast-neutron reactors, next-generation nuclear power plants and small modular reactors in an international collaborative project.
It is extremely important for Japan as a small country with limited resources to be proactive in using nuclear power for energy security, and at the same time, as a way to contribute to a global call for decarbonization.
With regard to fast-neutron reactors, technical cooperation is highlighted in a development plan by Bill Gates establishing a U.S. nuclear power company that will cooperate with the Japan Atomic Energy Agency and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries.
The Monju Nuclear Power Plant in Japan, designed to output 280,000 kilowatts of electricity, which was under development, was decommissioned six years ago due to defective inspection equipment., However, 250 days of operating data were collected, and constitutes valuable intellectual property.
The U.S., which is proceeding with plans for new fast-neutron reactors, will establish a meaningful cooperative relationship with Japan, which has been having trouble building its own new fast-neutron reactors.
Fast-neutron reactor facilities play an important role in the nuclear fuel cycle that forms the basis of Japan’s nuclear power policy. Previous collaborative research efforts with France are currently suspended, and we hope that Japan will regain this lost this lost ground.
Japan, a non-nuclear state, will be able to recover and recycle plutonium from spent nuclear fuel pursuant to the U.S.-Japan nuclear agreement.
From this perspective, U.S.-Japan cooperation on fast-neutron reactor development is essential. Prime Minister Fumio Kishida has emphasized the importance of the nuclear fuel cycle as an issue in the next Liberal Democratic Party presidential election.
Fast-neutron reactors now make it possible to decrease the volume of high-level radioactive waste and harm from nuclear power generation. In addition, next-generation nuclear plants will contribute to reduced geological disposal of nuclear waste.
Domestically, people object to the growing development of nuclear facilities because they use large amounts of sodium metals that ignite on contact with air. But aren’t Russia’s fast-neutron reactors working successfully?
With respect to small nuclear power plants, Poland is taking note of Japan’s next-generation power plants and high-temperature gas-cooled reactors. Eleven years after the Fukushima incident, the world has seen a recurrence in the use of nuclear power. Government leaders, including Kishida and Hagiuda, should show they have a shrewd understanding of this course of events.