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France and Japan partner up for nuclear research

France and Japan have signed a nuclear cooperation agreement in Paris, the French ministry reported on Wednesday.

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The joint declaration pledges to deepen and accelerate ties in the research and development of next-generation nuclear reactors such as sodium-cooled ones.

Work will continue on the safe life extension of existing reactors, decommissioning of nuclear plants including Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi reactor, developing civil nuclear capacity in interested countries, and promoting the recycling of used nuclear fuel to minimize the need for uranium.

French Energy Minister Agnès Pannier-Runacher met Yasutoshi Nishimura, Japan’s minister of trade, economy and industry, and they discussed accelerating technical cooperation on the nuclear fuel cycle, and working to build a supply chain involving only countries sharing “common values” – a veiled reference to Russia’s outsized role in the sector.

The announcement followed talks on the sidelines of the Group of Seven energy and climate meeting in Sapporo last month, where the ministers discussed cooperating on a relaunch of nuclear energy in Japan as a way to meet rising power demand without a spike in greenhouse gas emissions.

“The new flags of this bilateral Franco-Japanese partnership, the Tricolor and the Hinomaru rising sun, wave strongly toward decarbonization and a stable energy supply,” Nishimura said in a statement.

Japan’s Sankei newspaper reported earlier on Wednesday that Prime Minister Fumio Kishida has earmarked some 46 billion yen (EUR 337 mln) over three years beginning in April 2024, to help develop sodium-cooled fast reactors.

The joint declaration came a day after a Paris appeals court allowed the French government to proceed with a buyout of nuclear giant EDF as part of its long-term plan to reinvigorate the nuclear sector and build up to 14 new reactors by 2050.

France this year also signed a bilateral agreement with Britain emphasizing nuclear as a low-carbon energy source that could reduce dependence on suppliers like Russia.

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