Kazakhstan to tap Japan for new type of nuke power reactor

Kazakhstan plans to build a new-generation nuclear power reactor by introducing Japanese technologies, the head of the country's national nuclear institute said.

Kairat Kadyrzhanov, general director of the National Nuclear Center, said Friday the project envisions constructing a 50-megawatt high temperature gas cooled reactor in Kurchatov, known as a once-closed city when the Central Asian country was part of the Soviet Union.

The project, estimated at over $500 million, calls for the construction of a new reactor to be completed in 2018 for the start of operations four years later.

Kadyrzhanov told Kyodo News discussions are under way by businesses including Japanese electronics giant Toshiba Corp. and state-run nuclear energy company Kazatomprom with an eye on forming a joint venture for the project.

Japan would likely finance roughly half of the venture, which has drawn interest from Russia and Slovakia. Kazakhstan has asked the Japan Bank for International Cooperation for cooperation in the financing, Kadyrzhanov said.

The technologies developed by the Japan Atomic Energy Agency serve as the base for the construction of the new reactor, which is designed to boost the efficiency in electricity generation with the use of helium gas as a coolant. Currently, light-water reactors featuring water as a coolant are most commonly used for nuclear power generation worldwide.

Japan is believed to have the technological edge for the new type of reactor after a test by the agency achieved a coolant temperature of 950 C at a prototype reactor in Oarai, Ibaraki Prefecture, in 2004.

Kazakhstan plans to use the reactor for heat supply to the Kurchatov area, located near Semipalatinsk, the primary site for nuclear tests by the Soviet Union. According to Kadyrzhanov, the country is looking to include the new reactor project in its national nuclear program.

(Distributed by Kyodo News on June 20, 2009)