Recently the Nuclear Regulation Authority issued an order to suspend a use of the fast breeder reactor Monju, located in Tsuruga City, Fukui Prefecture. The decision is right but late. This means a failure of the entire nuclear fuel cycle program. Nuclear energy generation is in deadlock from a point of resource as main ingredient of natural uranium is not available.
NUCLEAR FUEL CYCLE AND POWER GENERATION ARE IN DEADLOCK
The rest of the world, including US, UK, Germany and France, already abandoned fast breeder reactor programs 20 years ago as this type of reactors are not good in terms of safety and commercial operation. Especially in France, where the first demonstration reactor Super Phoenix tried commercial operation in advance of other countries, a complete failure was proven.
In Japan where so often do occur earthquakes, a reactor using sodium as a coolant is not workable.
Regulation Authority Found Astounded
Officials in charge of the reactor Monju in the Japan Atomic Energy Agency are aware of the fact by any means. They were well aware of it. That is why they have been negligent over a series of accidents and omitted necessary checks of over 10 thousand pieces of equipment. They have probably lost perfect reliance on the system.
Acting Director Shimazaki Kunihiko of the Regulation Authority criticized the Agency, saying, 'it lacks basic notion on safety. Existence of this kind of organization cannot be right'.
Over 1 trillion Yen of the state budget was spent for the Monju program. It costs as much as 17.4 billion Yen a year to maintain the facility even if operation is suspended. Electricity is wasted to heat up coolant sodium so that it may not be consolidated. Only option is to decommission immediately.
Reprocessing Plant - Unnecessary, too
'A dream reactor' has been proven a nightmare. That means a processing plant of spent nuclear fuel at Rokkasho-Mura, Aomori Prefecture, is unnecessary. The program aims to use plutonium generated at the plant to convert uranium 238, non-fissionable, main ingredient of natural uranium, to fissionable plutonium 239 in the fast breeder reactor.
It cost the reprocessing plant three times as much as the original budget to start operation in 2000 when the plant received spent fuel for the first time. But accidents occurred repeatedly and even a test operation has failed. It costs as expensive as 110 billion Yen a year to maintain the plant even if it does not operate.
As much as 10 trillion Yen has been already wasted for the nuclear fuel cycle program at the Monju and the reprocessing plant. A glassification facility has been shelved for normal operation to process high-level radioactive wastes (nitric acid solution) produced at the sites.
Massive emission of radioactive elements shut in the cladding tubes must be prohibited in a reprocessing stage. If a cooling operation fails in the tank of high-level radioactive waste liquids, an explosion and dispersion occur to destroy human lives in the vast area. A processing plant should be decommissioned immediately, too.
Prevent Severe Accidents
The suspension order for the Monju reactor may be lifted, if the Nuclear Regulation Authority admits that significant improvements are made. If operation starts with an administrative force, a tragic disaster might be inflicted, causing deaths of residents as well as the staff in charge of operation of the reactor Monju. Both eastern and western regions of Japan and the Sea of Japan might be terribly contaminated. An accident might occur at any time.
Some political forces do not want to shut down the Monju as it generates highly pure, fissionable plutonium used for nuclear weapons. These forces are not few. We must be alert.
June 4, 2013