Fate of troubled Monju reactor hangs in balance

posted on November 13, 2015

The fate of the nation's troubled prototype fast-breeder reactor is in the air amid continued questions over its safety and cost. Political challenges to the country's nuclear policy are also taking a toll.

Taro Kono, the anti-nuclear Cabinet minister in charge of administrative reforms, has himself started attacking the Monju project, openly questioning the feasibility of the plant after a high-profile budget review by a team of experts Wednesday in Tokyo.

In a separate move, the Nuclear Regulation Authority was set to lodge a formal request for a change in the plant’s ownership. It was to ask the education and science ministry Friday to find a new operator after decades of serious problems that have shaken confidence.

The NRA’s recommendation could lead to Monju’s closure because it will be hard to find a replacement for the government-backed Japan Atomic Energy Agency (JAEA), observers say.

“This will be (Monju’s) last chance to win the trust of the nation,” Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told a news conference Thursday.

Kono, who was appointed as administrative reform minister in the Oct. 7 Cabinet reshuffle, has long been critical of the policy to develop a nuclear fuel cycle.

During the budget review session Wednesday, he criticized JAEA for wasting vast sums of money on maintaining the nuclear-fuel transport ship Kaiei Maru.

The ship, built in 2006, costs about ¥1.2 billion every year to maintain and has been used only four times.

source by japantimes
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