A reprocessing plant of spent fuel at the Rokkasho nuclear complex in Aomori Prefecture, the northernmost of the Honshu Island, which is key part of the nuclear fuel cycle, has undergone 23 times of extension of its completion. Another vital facility, a sodium-cooled fast breeder reactor (FBR), the Monju, has been inoperative for twenty years as it was forced to be shutdown due to an accident of sodium leakage. The plant has been left in a miserable appearance. Now a new round of litigation has started to scrap the Monju plant. It is the very time to dismantle the FBR program.
DECOMMISSION REACTOR MONJU THROUGH NEW COURT BATTLE!
A hundred and six residents, most of them are from the area of 250 km radius of the reactor Monju, located in the City of Tsuruga, Fukui Prefecture, newly filed a suit to the Tokyo District Court on December 25, 2015. It is 30 years from the first round of litigation presented in September 1985 to cancel the FBR project.
The reactor Monju uses a mixed plutonium-uranium oxide and employs sodium as coolant. Plutonium is used as fuel, which is highly poisonous and its half-life counts 24 thousand years. Meanwhile, sodium is used as coolant, which reacts intensively to oxygen and moisture to burn and explode. The same reaction is yielded when it touches with a concrete floor to destroy the building. The combination of these materials produces an extraordinary danger.
On December 8, 1995, the Monju was inflicted with a serious accident in the secondary cooling system where sodium leaked due to a break on the cover tube of a thermometer. It has a problem, too, in the earthquake-proof level. It is because a breeder reactor is operated under much higher temperature compared with that of a light-water reactor, and therefore, a piping system is built thinner. Much higher elasticity is required for pipes and the winding suspender-pipes are hung down from one place to another. Furthermore, an active geological fault line is found in the distance of 500 meters away from the plant location.
Lack of Technological Capabilities
In addition, the operator agency of this dangerous, troublesome plant is known for numerous scandals, including cover-ups and lack of technological capabilities.
The plant’s administration covered up the extent and damage of the 1995 accident: a fact was concealed that an iron liner placed on the concrete floor to prevent touching with coolant sodium had holes, in which the two materials directly touched, which caused damage in the heat tube of the steam generator. The plant authority hid other facts, too.
In addition, the Power Reactor and Nuclear Fuel Development Corporation (=PNC-Donen) had alarmed in its simulation that operation of an FBR might inevitably bring uncontrollable running and an accident might occur at the reactor core to be collapsed. The plant authority concealed the truth.
The new litigation focuses on lack of technological potential. The Nuclear Regulation Authority clearly states the Japan Atomic Energy Agency (JAEA), the plant’s operator, does not have enough technical capabilities. For a permission of installation, technological requirement must be met. And therefore, permission is impossible.
Chairman Tanaka Shun’ichi of the Regulation Authority told in the press meeting held on October 21 last year: ‘the explanation made by the Ministry of Education and Science & Technology did not satisfy us. The Regulation Authority will examine cautiously steps to be taken. A decision of annulment is not excluded for permission of installation pursuant to the Act on Regulation of Nuclear Source Material, Nuclear Fuel Material and Reactors.
Chairman Nakagawa Hideyuki, Commission on Nuclear Power Safety of Fukui Prefecture, told: ‘there not exists at the moment an organization that has technologies superior to those of the JAEA for operating a fast breeder reactor. For this reason it is more perilous for an alternative institute to operate it’.
Attorney Kaito Yuichi in charge of the new litigation mentions: ’the suit presents a simple, clear demand. The plaintiffs will certainly win in short time’.
January 19, 2016