. But they remain both expensive and less than 100 percent reliable, and will continue to be for some time. You’ll still need a backup energy source. With Monju, not only will Japan have such a source, but also one that will help the country reduce greenhouse gases caused by the burning of coal and gas,” Hiroi said.

Last September, the agency began modification work to get the plant restarted. The work, expected to be completed in February, includes replacing temperature sensors in the secondary heat transfer system.

“By the end of August, about 80 percent of the work was complete, so we are on schedule,” said Takehide Deshimaru, a JAEA official based in Tsuruga.

Many in the audience questioned whether the modification work would keep Monju safe in the event of a natural, as opposed to a man-made, disaster. Seven earthquake fault lines lie within 40 km of Monju. In 1948, a quake with a magnitude of 7.1 struck Fukui, killing more than 3,700 people.

Hiroaki Koide, a researcher at Kyoto University Research Reactor Institute, warned that nuclear power plant operators underestimated the potential earthquake dangers when they sought permits to build atomic plants, including Monju, in not only Fukui but also Niigata, Hokkaido and Kagoshima prefectures.

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