22.12.2016_No253 / News in Brief

Japan Confirms Monju Decommissioning At Cost Of $3.2 Billion


22 Dec (NucNet): Japan has confirmed that it will decommission the Monju fast breeder reactor in Fukui Prefecture at a cost of around $3.2bn (€3bn) over three decades, the Japan Atomic Industrial Forum said. Jaif said spent nuclear fuel will be removed from the reactor by 2022 and the entire dismantling process finished by 2047. According to Jaif, the government said that while Monju was not problematic insofar as its technology was concerned, it did suffer from management problems, including those of its “maintenance framework, human resource development, and the relationships of responsibility among its various stakeholders”. The government also cited the need to spend more than $4.6bn on Monju to meet new regulatory standards developed in response to the March 2011 Fukushima-Daiichi accident. Jaif quoted Fukui governor Issei Nishikawa as saying he would not accept the decision and would ask the government reconsider it. Monju reached criticality for the first time in 1994, but it has mostly been offline since 1995. In November 2015 Japan’s nuclear regulator, the NRA, said state-run Japan Atomic Energy Agency (JAEA) was not fit to operate Monju because it had repeatedly failed to correctly carry out inspections of the plant. In December 1995, just months after Monju first started power transmission, it was shut down when 640 kg of liquid sodium leaked from a cooling system, causing a fire. Monju was allowed to restart in May 2010 after JAEA carried out a review of the plant’s design, and its safety procedures, which were shown to be inadequate. However, operation was again suspended in August 2010 after a fuel handling machine was dropped into the reactor during a refuelling outage. Monju is a 246-MW sodium-cooled fast reactor at the Tsuruga nuclear power station in Fukui Prefecture, southwest Japan. It is designed to use mixed fuel rods of uranium and plutonium, and to produce more fuel than it consumes. Regarded as the core facility of the government’s policy for nuclear fuel recycling, Monju is different from conventional nuclear power plants, which use water as coolants. Monju uses sodium as the coolant, meaning more sophisticated technology is required for its operation.

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David Dalton

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