• Kyodo

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Education and Science Minister Atsuko Toyama called on local officials here Saturday to work with the central government to take steps to restart operations at the Monju prototype fast-breeder reactor.

Toyama met with officials from the city of Tsuruga, where Monju is located, as well as senior members of the Fukui Prefectural Government. It was her first visit to the Monju reactor since taking office in late April. Monju, the only reactor of its kind in Japan, has been closed for more than five years since a sodium leak and fire on Dec. 8, 1995.

During her afternoon meeting with Fukui Gov. Yukio Kurita, the minister vowed to make every possible effort to ensure the safety of the facility and asked for the prefecture’s cooperation.

“Monju is a key component of the nation’s nuclear energy program and (the central government) will work as if we have no path of retreat,” Toyama was quoted as saying.

Kurita, for his part, called on the central government to take responsibility to ensure the safety of the entire Monju complex. He added that the matter will be decided after consultations with the city of Tsuruga as well as the prefectural assembly.

The semigovernmental Japan Nuclear Cycle Development Institute, which is in charge of Monju, has applied to the prefectural and city governments for permission to begin a safety inspection of the reactor.

The inspection would pave the way for renovations to the facility that would allow the reactor to start operating again.

The local governments, for their part, have begun studying the application on the grounds that the inspection is not directly linked to the restart of the reactor. They are widely expected to approve the plan after assessing the central government’s proposals to invigorate the local economy.

“Monju is seen as being a very important facility, even within international circles. I would like to see (local officials) give the go-ahead at an early date,” Toyama said.

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