Experts demand drastic review of Monju fast breed reactor

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Located on the coast of the Sea of Japan 400 km (250 miles) west of Tokyo, the 280-megawatt Monju reactor is designed to burn plutonium refined from spent fuel at conventional nuclear reactors to create more fuel.

Fast-breeder reactors have been beset by technical problems and many countries have abandoned costly programs to develop them. Some critics oppose them because the high-purity plutonium they produce can be used to make nuclear weapons.

But if Japan gives up on the 900 billion yen ($11 billion)project, it faces tough choices on what to do with spent fuel rods from its 54 nuclear reactors, which are now generally stored in pools at the reactor sites.

Source: Reuters

Experts tasked with screening government programs have called for a drastic review of the Monju prototype fast breeder reactor, which remains suspended despite more than 1 trillion yen ($13 billion) spent.

“The government is pouring money on top of 1 trillion yen already spent even though it will not be completed in 40 years,” Yuichiro Tamaki, a Lower House member of the ruling Democratic Party of Japan and one of the reviewers, said. “Can we continue this program?”

The policy examiners on Nov. 20 also called on the government to drop 2.2 billion yen of the 21.5 billion yen the science ministry has requested for Monju-related programs in the fiscal 2012 budget.

Source: AJW Asahi

Monju, located in Tsuruga, Fukui Prefecture, was long shut down after sodium leaked in 1995. Only months after it was restarted in May 2010, it was suspended again due to an accident.

On August 26, 2010, a 3.3-tonne “In‐Vessel Transfer Machine” fell into the reactor vessel when being removed after a scheduled fuel replacement operation.

In October 13, 2010, an unsuccessful attempt was made to retrieve the machine.   The JAEA tried to recover the device used in fuel exchange but failed as it had become misshapen, preventing its retrieval through the upper lid.

The JAEA began preparatory engineering work on May 24, 2011 to set up equipment to be used to retrieve the IVTM that fell inside the vessel  The fallen device was successfully retrieved from the reactor vessel on June 23, 2011.

Video of the Monju Sodium Leak

Video taken immediately after the Monju sodium leak and fire in 1995. Existence of the videotape was originally denied, a Japanese group called News for the People Japan (NPJ) released the video onto YouTube on Jan. 25th, 2008 with Japanese subtitles.

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