No funding for Monju reactor test run

Kyodo

The government will not earmark funding for a test run of the Monju prototype fast-breeder reactor in the fiscal 2012 budget following a Diet panel’s call to cut spending on the project and its nuclear fuel cycle program, Masaharu Nakagawa, the science minister, said Tuesday.

Nakagawa, who is minister of education, culture, sports, science and technology, told a news conference that the government “will exclude (spending on the Monju test run) after various views” were expressed in the Diet on the project earlier this month.

The ministry sought ¥21.5 billion for the Monju project in next year’s budget, including ¥2.2 billion to carry out a practice run. The government has already decided not to run the reactor on a trial basis in the current fiscal year, which ends March 31.

The Monju fast-breeder reactor, located in Tsuruga, Fukui Prefecture, and operated by the Japan Atomic Energy Agency, had been expected to play a key role in establishing the nation’s nuclear fuel cycle.

It was intended to use spent fuel from reactors and produce more fuel than it consumed. But Monju has been plagued by a series of mishaps, casting doubt on the project’s viability.

On Dec. 8, the Lower House audit panel passed a nonbinding resolution to slash spending for the project in response to a package of proposals worked out in November by lawmakers for a thorough review of energy policy.

Following the Fukushima nuclear crisis triggered by the March 11 earthquake and tsunami, the government plans to craft new energy policies next summer, which will also cover the future of the Monju project.

Nakagawa said if the government decides to continue the reactor’s development next year it will “flexibly” secure spending for a test run in a supplementary budget.

Tepco plan questioned

Industry minister Yukio Edano on Tuesday called into question Tepco’s plan to release low-level radioactive water from the Fukushima No. 1 power plant into the Pacific Ocean, saying doing so without consent from fishermen should not be allowed.

“It should not be socially allowed that (Tokyo Electric Power Co.) goes ahead before gaining agreement from people involved in the fishery industry,” Edano said at a news conference.

Tepco said earlier this month it is considering releasing low-level radioactive water now stored in tanks at its crippled nuclear plant because the storage capacity may run short by March.

The utility said the water will be released only after it clears the legal concentration limit for radioactive substances, including strontium, but local fishing cooperatives fiercely oppose the plan.

Edano’s remark effectively makes it necessary for Tepco to gain consent from the seafood industry to release treated water into the sea.