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Anglo-French nuke pact blesses 4th-gen reactors

UK wants to take ASTRID home

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The UK is borrowing heavily on French nuclear energy know-how in a pact signed today. France and the UK will extend co-operation to R&D and training in several areas, but the most interesting is the commitment to develop 4th Generation (Gen IV) nuclear reactors on the French ASTRID prototype.

ASTRID Advanced Sodium Technological Reactor for Industrial Demonstration is a sodium-cooled Fast Neutron Reactor (SFR) research design, and optimistic guesstimates hope it will be operational by 2020. The design is intended to burn the nasties – the actinides – recovered from used fuel. This should provide much longer operational life for the reactor along with fewer waste issues. Last year the US, Japan and France teamed up to co-coperate on fast neutron reactor (FNR) research, with the goal of half of France's capacity to be fulfilled by FNRs by 2050.

But the UK needs new nuclear capacity much sooner than that, or the lights will start going out. Seven of the 10 plants currently operating here broke ground before 1970, and four of those are due to be closed in the next four years. The new reactors currently under consideration are Generation III+ designs.

The new energy secretary Edward Davey claimed most of the construction and manufacture of the new GIIIs will be in the UK. You can find out more via this PR page.

Support for civilian nuclear energy in the UK has rise to its highest level in years - despite, or perhaps even because of, the Fukushima incident. ®

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