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Euratom joins international nuclear research initiative

The European Atomic Energy Community (Euratom) has formally joined an international framework agreement for collaborative research and development on fourth generation nuclear energy systems, it was announced on 11 May. The framework agreement is a programme of the Generation...

The European Atomic Energy Community (Euratom) has formally joined an international framework agreement for collaborative research and development on fourth generation nuclear energy systems, it was announced on 11 May. The framework agreement is a programme of the Generation IV International Forum (GIF), a platform for international research cooperation which was established in January 2000 at the initiative of the US Department of Energy to investigate innovative nuclear energy system concepts for meeting future energy challenges. Fourth generation nuclear energy systems represent an array of nuclear reactor technologies that could be deployed by 2030. While the first and second generations of reactors met the need for intensive energy production at low costs and acceptable levels of safety, the third generation was conceived after the Three Mile Island and Chernobyl accidents, and focused on an even higher level of safety. Although these existing designs provide a reliable supply of electricity in many markets, proponents of the fourth generation say that its deployment will result in significant improvements in economics, safety and reliability and sustainability over currently operating reactor technologies. By joining GIF, all interested research and development (R&D) organisations and industry in the Member States, as well as countries associated with the Euratom Research Framework Programmes, will have the possibility to participate in concrete GIF R&D projects, thereby building competence and knowledge and gaining information on the technical and safety issues concerning the next generation of nuclear reactor systems. Euratom joins ten other members of GIF, namely Argentina, Brazil, Canada, France, Japan, South Africa, South Korea, Switzerland, United Kingdom, and United States, with the OECD-Nuclear Energy Agency and the International Atomic Energy Agency as permanent observers. The European Commission's Joint Research Centre (JRC) has been designated as 'implementing agent' of the framework agreement, and will represent Euratom at GIF. The forum has identified several priority areas to be developed and deployed by 2030. They include the development of very high temperature reactors (VHTRs), gas-cooled fast reactors (GFRs) and sodium-cooled fast reactors (SFRs).