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Japan Reopens Advanced Nuclear Power Plant

In the 1990’s Japan built a prototype Generation IV nuclear reactor, but the plant was shut down after a fire. Testing has now resumed on the advanced "fast breeder" plant which is able to run on reprocessed nuclear waste. These plants "breed" or create more fissile material than they consume, thus promising an endless supply of clean energy.

Work on a similar project in the US was also halted in the mid-90’s as a result of political opposition. The Gen IV reactors are seen as a threat by Big Oil. Senator John Kerry led the ignominious effort to kill the US fast breeder project, along with President Clinton’s Secretary of Energy Hazel O’Leary.

In France, Germany and the UK the story of political pressure to close Gen IV plants has been repeated. The lobbying power of Big Oil is evident, and when lobbying alone doesn’t work there is also sabotage (the Japan fire?).

Nonetheless, research on fast breeder designs has continued thanks to an international study group known as GIF. It is expected that commercially feasible designs will be available by 2030 at the latest.

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