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Japan likely to scrap fast-breeder nuclear reactor: Reports

Japan is likely to scrap a prototype fast-breeder nuclear reactor in the country's west that has operated for less than a year in over two decades, local media reported on Wednesday.

By: | Tokyo | Published: September 21, 2016 1:45 PM
The government is also grappling with a wave of anti-nuclear sentiment among its population in the wake of the Fukushima atomic disaster. (Reuters) The government is also grappling with a wave of anti-nuclear sentiment among its population in the wake of the Fukushima atomic disaster. (Reuters)

Japan is likely to scrap a prototype fast-breeder nuclear reactor in the country’s west that has operated for less than a year in over two decades, local media reported on Wednesday.

More than 1 trillion yen ($9.84 billion) of mostly public money has been injected into the Monju facility, but Japan’s nuclear regulator last year declared its operator unfit following years of accidents, missteps and falsification of documents.

The government is also grappling with a wave of anti-nuclear sentiment among its population in the wake of the Fukushima atomic disaster.

Tokyo believes it would be difficult to gain public support to spend another 580 billion yen on the project over the next 18 years if the reactor was restarted, the Nikkei business daily and Mainichi newspaper said, without citing sources.

A government official did not immediately respond to a request for comment from Reuters. The reactor’s operator, the Japan Atomic Energy Agency, declined to comment.

Science Minister Hirokazu Matsuno, Trade Minister Hiroshige Seko and others will hold a meeting on nuclear issues on Wednesday, with media reporting that they will likely decide to shift policy away from developing the fast-breeder reactor.

A formal decision to decommission Monju is likely to follow  by year-end after talks with local governments, the Nikkei and Mainichi added.

The call to decommission Monju has been growing in the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, with scant results from using around 20 billion yen of pubic money a year for maintenance alone.

Located 400 km (250 miles) west of Tokyo, the 280-megawatt reactor was designed to burn plutonium refined from spent fuel at conventional reactors to create more fuel than it consumes. That process that was seen promising for a country whose limited natural resources force it to rely on imports for virtually all its oil and gas needs.

With all but three of Japan’s 42 commercial reactors still shut as a result of the 2011 Fukushima disaster, there is little meaning to the costly exercise of extracting more plutonium from spent fuel, critics say.

The Yomiuri newspaper said Japan would continue to co-develop a fast breeder technological demonstration reactor that has been proposed in France.

Japan will also continue research at its first experimental fast-breeder reactor, Joyo, a predecessor of Monju, the Nikkei said.

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