Research & Development

Generation IV / US And Japan Must Lead The Way, Says Commerce Secretary

By David Dalton
23 December 2019

 US And Japan Must Lead The Way, Says Commerce Secretary
Wilbur Ross: ‘If the US and Japan don’t lead this renaissance, then somebody else will.’ Photo courtesy US DOE.
The US is working with allies like Japan to led the way in assuring the efficient licensing and construction of a new generation of inherently safe and economically viable reactors, commerce secretary Wilbur Ross told the Japan Roundtable Washington Conference.

Mr Ross said president Trump is committed to revitalising the industry and that nuclear “is and must remain an essential part of our energy mix long into the future”.

To achieve sustainable global development on a real scale, and to balance electrical demand when renewables are not available, then nuclear “must be a viable option”, he said. “If the US and Japan don’t lead this renaissance, then somebody else will.”

He said Japan would benefit greatly by having a fleet of new, inherently safe reactors. Nuclear dropped from 25% of Japan’s electrical output before the March 2011 Fukushima-Daiichi accident, to 3% in 2017, with growing dependence on coal, LNG, and oil for electrical generation.

“Both Japan and the US need a new nuclear capability as we become increasingly electrified, and replace old and inefficient electrical generating capacity,” Mr Ross said.

“So, too, does the world, as more people are buying more electronic gadgets, as the transportation sector shifts to electric vehicles and as the need for desalination grows.”

A memorandum of cooperation, signed in November 2018, to promote civil nuclear power development in both the US and Japan “builds on our desire to promote the global leadership of our nuclear industries”, Mr Ross said.

One of the highest priorities for the US Department of Energy is the versatile test reactor, a fast-neutron test reactor for which it hopes to have cost estimates by 2026.

The US wants to use the VTR to test and qualify the materials needed to develop advanced nuclear reactors.

A DOE official said earlier this year that the VTR will be a state-of-the-art science and technology lab for advanced nuclear energy. It will feature a sodium-cooled fast reactor that uses high energy neutrons to test and develop advanced reactor fuels and materials.

“If we don’t build this capability, US companies will have no choice but to rely on foreign countries like Russia and China to develop their technologies,” the official said.

“The DOE will now move forward with its conceptual design of the reactor, which could be completed as early as 2026 at the site of one our national labs.”

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