Local opposition to dismantling of Japanese fast reactor

19 December 2016

UPDATED - This article has been updated to reflect the decision taken on 20 December by the government to scrap the Monju reactor. 

The governor of Fukui prefecture has called the Japanese government's proposal to decommission the Monju prototype fast breeder reactor (FBR) as "totally unacceptable". However, the government announced a formal decision on 20 December to scrap the reactor.

Monju (JAEA)
Monju (Image: JAEA)

A meeting was held today between representatives of Fukui prefecture and the government to discuss the fate of the Monju reactor. It was attended by Fukui governor Issei Nishikawa, as well as Japan's minister of economy, trade and industry, Hiroshige Seko and the minister of education, culture, sports, science and technology, Hirokazu Matsuno.

The 280 MWe Monju FBR started up in 1994 but following sodium leakage problems operated for only 205 days until it restarted in May 2010. It has not operated since refuelling equipment fell into the reactor vessel during a refuelling outage later that year. The equipment was subsequently retrieved and replaced but the Japanese Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA) has not yet permitted the reactor to restart. In November 2015, following concerns over equipment inspections, the NRA determined that operator JAEA was not competent to operate the reactor.

During today's meeting, the government informed the prefecture of its opinion that the Monju reactor, located near Tsuruga City, should be not be restarted and a new experimental research reactor should be constructed to replace it.

However, the Japan Atomic Industrial Forum's publication Atoms in Japan reported that Governor Nishikawa said, "We will never accept this. We demand that the government look again at it and reconsider it." He is also reported to have said JAEA, in addition to being incapable of operating Monju, is not capable of safely dismantling the reactor.

The Japanese government held a ministerial meeting on 20 December, at which a formal decision to decommission Monju was taken. The decision came despite the government still trying to convince local residents about its decommissioning plan.

In a separate meeting today, the government said it expects the decommissioning of Monju to take 30 years and cost more than JPY375 billion ($3.2 billion). This includes JPY225 billion for maintenance, JPY135 billion for dismantling the plant and JPY15 billion for defuelling and preparations for decommissioning.

Researched and written
by World Nuclear News