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article imageJapan's Monju fast-breeder nuclear reactor goes on scrap heap

By Karen Graham     Dec 23, 2016 in Technology
Tsuruga - Japan has decided to finally scrap its Monju experimental fast-breeder nuclear reactor, once envisioned as being a savior for the resource-poor country's energy needs.
The Monju reactor, located in the city of Tsuruga, Fukui Prefecture was supposed to be a more efficient alternative to conventional nuclear power. Construction started on the plant in 1986, and it reached critical for the first time in April 1994.
The reactor is a prototype sodium-cooled fast reactor that was designed to produce more plutonium than it used. This was supposed to make it easy to refuel the reactor, but the plan didn't quite work out. Just a few months after it went online, the plant began leaking sodium, used as a coolant.
This caused a major fire in December 1995 and the plant was closed down for repairs. The fact is, the power plant was only in operation for 250 days, reports CTV News. Since that time, the plant has been plagued with failures, mismanagement and political bickering.
Engadget is reporting that the Japanese government says it would be more expensive to bring the reactor up to the new nuclear safety codes and would take at least eight years to complete an upgrade. That's a difference of $4.6 billion versus $3.2 billion.
As it is, removal of the nuclear fuel will take until 2022, at least, and that's barring any complications. Then it will take until 2047 before the plant is completely dismantled. And while nuclear energy isn't exactly a popular subject with most of the population, the government will still have a fight on its hands.
The Japanese government needs the approval of the city of Tsuruga, as well as the prefecture, before the dismantling of Monju can begin. The prefecture has been hit hard with plant closings and natural disasters, and according to the Japan Times, Monju’s decommissioning will result in the loss of jobs and government subsidies.
After meeting with Fukui Governor Issei Nishikawa on Wednesday, Economy, Trade and Industry Minister Hiroshige Seko told reporters, “The governor told us today… that he wants a more thorough explanation of the specific mechanisms by which decommissioning will be carried out. We will create opportunities for dialogue with the local area.” But the reactor will be decommissioned.
More about Monju reactor, plutoniumuranium mix, Japan, Energy policy, Nuclear power
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