Enformable: ” Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and French President Francois Hollande met during a summit meeting at the Elysee Palace in Paris on Monday and agreed that the two countries will work to promote the research and development of fast breeder reactors.
According to Japanese sources with knowledge of the agreement, Japan will provide technical assistance on France’s fast breeder reactor development projects.
France has also demanded that Japan use the Monju fast breeder reactor to test fuel for France’s Advanced Sodium Technological Reactor for Industrial Demonstration (ASTRID). The ASTRID reactor concept is the same as the Monju reactor in Japan.
There have been serious questions raised about whether the Monju reactor will be fit to use for research purposes, let alone commercial use. Japan has spent nearly 10 trillion Yen on the project, and in return the Monju reactor has been kept offline for most of the past 19 years due to repeated failures , safety problems and organizational issues.
Currently, the Monju reactor is shut down while the operator, Japan Atomic Energy Agency (JAEA) continues organizational reforms and improves its safety management. To meet France’s demands, the Japanese government has agreed to accelerate the reforms at the JAEA and get the Monju reactor to pass safety checks by the Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA).
After the project is underway, the JAEA, Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, AREVA, and others will collaborate on joint research together to create the basic design of the ASTRID reactor. France is working to complete the basic design for the ASTRID reactor by 2019, and hopes to put it online in 2025.
Currently all nuclear reactors in Japan are offline, but one of Japan’s hurdles to restarting its nuclear reactors is the decision of what to do with all of the highly radioactive nuclear waste generated by commercial operations.
Japan does not have a repository for storing nuclear waste underground and is hoping that fast breeder reactors will reduce the amount of radioactive waste produced at its commercial reactors. Others are concerned that while fast-breeder reactors may reduce the amount of radioactive waste overall, they still produce plutonium in greater quantities than commercial reactors, and experts are worried that may present a serious proliferation risk. ”
The Japan Times: ” TSURUGA, FUKUI PREF. – The operator of the Monju prototype fast-breeder reactor in Fukui Prefecture is suspected of falsifying an inspection report after regulators later found new pieces of equipment there that hadn’t been inspected, Nuclear Regulation Authority sources said Thursday.
The experimental reactor in Tsuruga is run by the Japan Atomic Energy Agency. It is designed to use extracted plutonium and uranium to produce more fuel than it burns while generating electricity. The problem-ridden reactor, however, was effectively banned from operating last May after its lax safety inspections were revealed.
The discovery and the JAEA’s alleged failure to report it to the regulators are all but certain to keep the reactor from operating for some time, although the aging Monju project is expected to stay alive under the government’s revamped energy policy.
In November 2012, Monju reactor equipment was found not to have been inspected in about 10,000 cases.
JAEA said in its report last September that while it had failed to inspect reactor equipment in about 14,000 cases, it finished inspecting all of the pieces, roughly 47,500 in all, that were subject to the investigation, including those that had not previously been inspected.
But when the regulators inspected about 80 pieces of reactor equipment last month, at least nine that were related to the Monju reactor’s secondary cooling circuit had not been inspected by JAEA, the sources said. And JAEA failed to report it.
The operator has acknowledged its failure to report, according to the sources. A JAEA official declined to comment on the matter.
The sources said JAEA also made improper corrections to inspection records in more than 100 sections, a deviation from its internal regulations.
While the regulators had planned to inspect 700 pieces of equipment last month, they stopped doing so after inspecting about 80 of them, because they found many that hadn’t been inspected and many corrections in JAEA’s inspection records.
The Monju project has been regarded as central to achieving the government’s long-sought nuclear fuel cycle, which aims to reprocess spent fuel and reuse the extracted plutonium and uranium as reactor fuel.
But the reactor has remained largely offline since first achieving criticality in 1994 due to a series of problems, casting doubt on the project’s viability. ”