Construction of small SMR nuclear reactors: United States and Japan to work more closely together on most advanced technologies – Business AM


The first and third world economies will come together to accelerate the energy transition. The announcement was made following a meeting between US Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm and Japanese Economy Minister Yasutoshi Nishimura earlier this week. More specifically, the joint statement provides for cooperation around the development and construction of small modular reactors (SMR): mini nuclear reactors.

Why is this important?

In the world of nuclear energy, there are many interesting new technologies. SMRs, for example, are starting to become a popular alternative to traditional nuclear power plants around the world. Among others, tech billionaire Bill Gates and French President Emmanuel Macron are strong supporters of these mini nuclear reactors, which could be an important part of the energy transition. After all, nuclear power generation does not emit any CO₂, and SMRs are considered more cost-effective than traditional power plants.

In the news: on January 9, the United States Secretary of Energy and Japan’s Economy Minister met in Washington to discuss the world energy situation.

  • As part of this process, they agreed to strengthen cooperation in energy transition.
  • Clean energies, “including renewable energies (solar and wind, editor’s note), energy-efficient technologies (batteries), nuclear energy, geothermal energy and the production and use of hydrogen and ammonia”, must to develop and encourage as much as possible.
  • The US and Japanese policies “intend to cultivate opportunities for nuclear energy cooperation, such as the development and construction of advanced next-generation reactors, including SMRs, in both countries and with third country. »
  • The two countries also intend to work to “maximize” the use of existing reactors and establish a “stable” production chain for nuclear components and fuel, such as uranium, the ministers said.

Policy reversal

Context : Last year, the United States approved the design of an SMR for the first time. The stage is set: the superpower can now enter the race to build mini-nuclear power plants.

  • Japan, on the other hand, has changed its attitude towards nuclear energy due to the energy crisis, which was unthinkable a few years ago, with the Fukushima disaster still in mind.
  • Tokyo’s policy rollback also aims to meet carbon reduction targets. In fact, coal consumption, among other things, is on the rise again in the East Asian island state.

50 SMR projects worldwide

  • The “unique selling proposition” of SMRs: The main difference with conventional nuclear power plants is that SMRs can only be manufactured in factories and then assembled on site. It can partially avoid the high cost and risk of conventional power plants.
  • About 50 SMR projects are underway worldwide, the Nuclear Forum website says.
  • For some, such as HTR-PM in China, construction work is complete.
  • In fact, two SMRs are already operational: the two reactors aboard the Russian vessel Akademik Lomonosov; a nuclear power plant on a ship named after the scientist Mikhail Lomonosov.
  • Other mini-reactors are being installed in Canada, China, France, Poland, Russia, the United States and the United Kingdom. Sweden is also studying this possibility.
  • In Belgium, the SCK CEN nuclear research center and the Tractebel design office are ready to pursue the development of this new technology.

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