Fast reactors

Global interest in fast reactors has been growing since their inception in 1960 because they can provide efficient, safe and sustainable energy. Their closed fuel cycle can support long-term nuclear power development as part of the world’s future energy mix and decrease the burden of nuclear waste.

It is generally recognized that long term development of nuclear power as part of the world's future energy mix will require fast reactor technology with a closed fuel cycle. The fast neutron spectrum allows fast reactors to largely increase the energy yield from natural uranium as compared to thermal reactors. This high utilization of fuel can extend nuclear power programmes for thousands of years and provide significant improvements in nuclear waste management. It is for these reasons that fast reactors have been under development for decades in several countries, primarily as breeders and, in recent years, also as high-level waste burners.

Sodium cooled fast reactors, lead and lead–bismuth cooled fast reactors and gas cooled fast reactors are currently being developed at national and international levels in compliance with higher standards of safety, sustainability, economics, physical protection and proliferation resistance. In addition, the molten salt fast reactor concept is being considered as a long term option.

The most mature fast reactor technology, the sodium cooled fast reactor, has more than 400 reactor-years of experience acquired through the design, construction, operation and decommissioning of experimental, prototype, demonstration and commercial units operating in a number of countries, including China, France, Germany, India, Japan, the Russian Federation, the United Kingdom and the United States.

Support for advanced fast reactor development

In addition to current fast reactors construction projects, several countries are engaged in intense research and development programmes for the development of innovative, or Generation IV, fast reactor concepts. To establish multilateral international cooperative frameworks that can carry out this research and development, the following initiatives have been launched:

Areas of interest for international collaboration are identified by Member States through participation in the IAEA's Technical Working Group on Fast Reactors. This group comprises experts that give advice and support programme implementation, reflecting a global network of excellence and expertise in the area of advanced fast neutron technologies.