Plan to decommission Monju meets fierce local criticism

KYODO

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The central government’s plan to decommission the Monju fast-breeder reactor came under fierce criticism Monday from the governor of the prefecture that hosts the trouble-prone nuclear facility.

Fukui Gov. Issei Nishikawa said scrapping the reactor is “totally unacceptable” after being told of the plan Monday in a meeting in Tokyo with central government officials.

“I strongly demand the government review the plan,” Nishikawa said, charging the central government with not providing sufficient justification for the decommissioning.

Nishikawa also said the Japan Atomic Energy Agency, which operates the plant, is not capable of safely dismantling the reactor, having been disqualified from operating the facility by the Nuclear Regulation Authority last year following revelations of a massive number of equipment inspection failures in 2012 and other blunders.

The government had been planning to officially decide to decommission the reactor, which is located in the city of Tsuruga, at a ministerial meeting Tuesday, but the schedule is likely to be pushed back as efforts to convince people in Fukui continue.

In a separate meeting Monday, the government said it expects scrapping Monju to cost more than ¥375 billion over the next 30 years, based on a plan to begin the process next year.

The proposed budget allots ¥225 billion for maintenance, ¥135 billion for dismantling the facility and ¥15 billion for extracting spent fuel.

The price tag could increase if the decommissioning process takes longer than estimated, officials said.

The government originally intended the reactor to play a key role in achieving a nuclear fuel cycle aimed at reprocessing uranium fuel used in conventional reactors and reusing the extracted plutonium and uranium.

However, due to a sodium coolant leak and other problems, Monju has remained largely offline since first achieving criticality in 1994.

In addition to revealing the decommissioning fee, the government announced a plan at the meeting to develop an alternative fast reactor.

The meeting was attended by industry minister Hiroshige Seko, science minister Hirokazu Matsuno and Federation of Electric Power Companies Chairman Satoru Katsuno, among others.

While maintaining its policy to promote the nuclear fuel cycle, the government plans to compile a road map by 2018 to develop this new reactor.