22 Septembre 2016
September 23, 2016
The Monju reactor was a prototype meant to be a centerpiece of Japan's nuclear power industry. But more than 2 decades and billions of dollars later, the government is looking at decommissioning it.
"We will conduct a drastic review of the Monju reactor project, including the option of decommissioning it," said Japan's Science and Technology Minister Hirokazu Matsuno.
The reactor has long been plagued with problems that have come at a hefty price. Public opinion among people who live near the reactor is mixed.
"Monju could have worked if it had been properly managed, but if the operator can't do that, there's no choice but to shut it down," said one local resident.
"I think it is better to have Monju for our local economy," said another.
The Monju reactor was meant to play a key role in Japan's nuclear fuel cycle. It's a fast-breeder reactor that's designed to generate electricity while producing more fuel than it consumes. What's more, plutonium in spent fuel from conventional nuclear power plants could be used as fuel in the reactor.
That was the theory, but the reality is that more than 10 billion dollars has been spent on building and operating the prototype reactor. And since trial operations started in 1994, it's only been in operation for 250 days.
Trouble started right away. In 1995, a leak of sodium used to cool the reactor led to operations being halted. In 2010, they started test runs again and ran into another accident. A piece of equipment weighing over 3 tons fell into the reactor, putting an end to the tests. Last November, nuclear regulators said the operator was unfit, citing the discovery of 10,000 safety oversights.
Even with all the headaches, the local governor is against what the government is trying to do.
"The decision is extremely irresponsible. I have to say that Fukui residents feel distrust," said Fukui Governor Issei Nishikawa.
Nishikawa doesn't think the government has fully studied the issue. He said he wonders whether the nuclear fuel cycle is possible without the Monju reactor. What's more, decommissioning Monju is expected to cost 3 billion dollars.
Meanwhile, the government is considering working with France on developing a new more advanced version of the Monju reactor. The hope is that it would be more successful than the current model, but they need to prove it's feasible.
September 22, 2016
The mayor of Tsuruga City said on Wednesday the government's decision to comprehensively review the Monju program is deeply regrettable. The reactor is located in the city.
Takanobu Fuchikami said when he met government officials on Tuesday to ask them to keep the program alive, they told him that they'd decided nothing and that they will consider a broad range of options. He added they hold him in contempt.
Fuchikami also said the officials indicated that they will respect the opinions of host communities.
He added that when he meets science minister Hirokazu Matsuno later in the day, he wants to find out how the policy will change while officials have not disclosed the achievements of the Monju program. He suggested that Matsuno should visit the reactor.
Meanwhile, lawyers for citizens who filed a suit demanding an end to the Monju program welcomed the decision.
They urge the government to make a formal decision to scrap the reactor by the end of the year. They said the plaintiffs will continue their legal fight, but they will withdraw their lawsuit once the government decides to scrap the reactor.
A statement issued by the lawyers mentions a 2003 court decision that upheld the plaintiffs' argument that the government's approval to build the reactor is invalid. The Supreme Court later overturned the ruling.
The lawyers said the Supreme Court is hugely responsible for delaying the end of the program. They added the Supreme Court justices should reflect on what they have done.
Japan's science minister has explained to the governor of Fukui Prefecture about the decision to review the Monju program. The nuclear reactor is located in that prefecture.
Hirokazu Matsuno told Issei Nishikawa on Wednesday that the central government will conduct a comprehensive review of the program, which will include studying the possibility of scrapping the reactor.
Matsuno said his government will provide a sufficient explanation to the prefecture's residents who have supported the program.
Nishikawa criticized the decision as being extremely irresponsible, saying that Fukui residents feel distrust and view the government's move as betrayal.
The governor expressed doubt whether the government has fully studied the Monju program.
He added that he wonders whether nuclear fuel recycling is possible without the Monju reactor.