Final fuel-removal exercise starts for problem-plagued Monju reactor

JIJI

The Japan Atomic Energy Agency started a final decommissioning exercise Sunday to prepare for removing fuel assemblies from the Monju prototype fast-breeder reactor in Tsuruga, Fukui Prefectur.

The JAEA will launch actual fuel removal operations this month if it finds the work can be conducted safely. It was initially planned to begin late last month but was postponed after problems plagued the equipment test.

In the final exercise, control rods instead of real fuel assemblies will be removed from a container filled with sodium coolant by using the aforementioned equipment. The rods will be then packed in cans after the sodium is rinsed off and transported to a water-filled pool.

It has not been decided when the exercise will end, the agency said.

The decommissioning process for the glitch-riddled Monju is slated to take 30 years.

In the first phase, 530 assemblies in the reactor and a storage container outside the reactor will be moved to the water pool by December 2022. The JAEA has so far transferred only two fuel assemblies to the pool — one in 2008 and the other in 2009.