NRA targeted in second lawsuit against Monju reactor experiment

JIJI, Staff Report

Residents near the experimental Monju fast-breeder reactor in Tsuruga, Fukui Prefecture, are suing the Nuclear Regulation Authority to have the installation permit canceled.

On Friday, 106 people in 12 prefectures who live within 250 km of Monju filed suit at the Tokyo District Court, claiming the Japan Atomic Energy Agency, the manager of the trouble-prone prototype reactor, is unable to run it safely.

It is the second time residents have taken legal action to decommission the experimental reactor. The first attempt failed at the Supreme Court in 2005.

Among the plaintiffs this time are some from the first lawsuit and some forced to evacuate by the March 2011 triple core meltdown at Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s disaster-hit Fukushima No. 1 power plant.

The JAEA was established after a sodium leak accident and coverup bid at Monju in 1995 that forced the facility to close. After operations resumed in 2010, they were suspended again the same year after a massive fuel-exchanging device fell into the reactor, blocking access to the fuel rods.

Japan has reportedly spent more than ¥1 trillion on the Monju project to find a way to reliably produce more nuclear fuel than it uses.

Following the discovery of further problems, including large-scale inspection flaws, the NRA last month called for the manager, JAEA, to be replaced.

This month, the science and technology ministry, which has jurisdiction over JAEA, set up a panel to discuss the future of the experimental facility.

Tetsuen Nakajima, one of the plaintiffs, expressed doubts about the panel’s veracity, saying its members do not include anyone critical of the fast-breeder reactor.

The 73-year-old resident of Obama, Fukui Prefecture, added he hopes the lawsuit will lead to a thorough public debate on Monju.