Nuclear industry news


Japan to promote next-generation gas-cooled reactor


The government will promote further research and development of a high-temperature gas-cooled reactor, as part of a new basic energy plan that includes efforts to promote the development of highly safe and secure nuclear technology, government sources said.


As one candidate for envisaged next-generation nuclear reactors, high-temperature gas-cooled reactors use highly heat-resistant ceramics to cover the fuel inside. This makes them less susceptible to a core meltdown than other types of reactors.


It remains unknown when and whether new nuclear power stations—or new reactors, for that matter—will be built in the nation. Yet the draft of the new energy plan demonstrates the government’s determination to make progress in developing highly safe nuclear technology, drawing on the bitter lessons learned from the crisis at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant following the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake.


Serving as guidelines for mid- and long-term energy policies, the basic energy plan draft released in February clearly stipulates that the government will promote technological development aimed at enhancing the safety of light water reactors, including countermeasures for severe accidents, given their widespread use across the nation.


After coordination between the government and ruling parties, the draft was revised to include a passage that reads “promote research and development of nuclear technology to improve safety through international cooperation, such as inherently safe high-temperature gas reactors.”


The nation began full-fledged studies of high-temperature gas-cooled reactors in the 1990s, and has since developed the world’s leading technologies. Research is currently being carried out at the Japan Atomic Energy Agency’s test reactor in Oarai, Ibaraki Prefecture.


These next-generation gas reactors can be built inland because helium gas is used as coolant instead of water. It is said they will suitable for export to developing countries in the future, and China has started constructing a demonstration reactor.


The government and ruling parties are still adjusting numerical targets for the introduction of renewable energy in the plan. The Cabinet is expected to approve the plan in the middle of this month or later.