The Japanese central government is reviewing the national energy strategy in the wake of the Fukushima nuclear catastrophe.
The prototype fast-breeder reactor Monju was considered a key component to achieve the nuclear fuel cycle policy, in which uranium and plutonium extracted from spent fuel would be reused as reactor fuel, but progress has been sluggish, even though more than ¥1 trillion has been spent for Monju’s maintenance and construction.
In December last year, the Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Ministry decided that Monju would undergo only maintenance work and safety measures until the government announced its new nuclear energy policy.
The JAEA repaired a fuel exchanging device which had dropped into the reactor and restored it to its proper location on May 28. The reactor is expected to be fully repaired by mid-June.
At a meeting of the Japan Atomic Energy Commission’s new nuclear energy policy panel at the end of May, the ministry presented four options on the fate of Monju, including decommissioning the reactor, launching a full-fledged debate on whether to close the reactor for good.
However it has recently been found that the Japan Atomic Energy Agency (JAEA) used funds that were allocated last fiscal year to make contracts with Toshiba Corp. and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, Ltd. for approximately 100 million yen in preparation for possible reactivation of the reactor to sign contracts with two nuclear power plant makers in late March in preparation for tests at the prototype fast-breeder reactor Monju, though the government has yet to decide on the reactor’s fate.
An official of JAEA explained that it needed to make all possible preparations in anticipation of reactivation approval.
“We’re working through plans to promptly reactivate the reactor after the government adopts its new atomic energy policy. We did what we could do to prepare for reactivation even before the new policy was adopted,” the official said.
Hideyuki Ban, co-leader of the Citizens’ Nuclear Information Center, condemned JAEA’s move.
“JAEA’s disbursement of funds for a 40 percent output test in spite of debate on whether to decommission the reactor is a waste of money, and it’s outrageous,” he said.
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