Japan, France agree on nuclear energy cooperation

Japan and France have agreed to step up cooperation in the field of nuclear energy, including the development of next-generation advanced reactors.

Japan's industry minister Nishimura Yasutoshi and French energy transition minister Agnes Pannier-Runacher met in Paris on Wednesday.

The ministers affirmed that the two countries will work for the maximum use of nuclear energy to ensure a stable energy supply and achieve carbon neutrality. They signed a joint statement on an action plan as a new framework for cooperation in a wide range of activities.

The statement says the countries will strengthen cooperation on improving safety of existing reactors and supporting human resources development for safer operations of aging reactors.

It also calls for cooperation between governments and between private companies for the decommissioning of the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant.

In addition, the two sides agree to continue cooperation in the research and development of next-generation units, including small modular reactors and sodium-cooled fast reactors.

Japan in particular hopes to gain specific cooperation of France on developing fast reactors, which can help reduce high-level radioactive waste by recycling spent nuclear fuel.

Nishimura stressed after signing the statement that Japan will invest 46 billion yen, or about 340 million dollars, over three years for developing fast reactors.

He said France has continued research on fast reactors for a long time, and that gaining the country's knowledge and expertise will help increase the chances of successful development.

He added that it would be a new symbol of bilateral cooperation.

But critics point to difficulties ahead. Japan has decided to scrap the troubled prototype fast-breeder reactor Monju, and France has also canceled its research project on a new fast reactor.