Japan regulator wants plutonium reactor operator replaced

Japan regulator wants plutonium reactor operator replaced
This July, 2013 photo shows plutonium-burning reactor Monju in Tsufuga, Fukui Prefecture, central Japan. Japan's nuclear regulator issued a rare warning Friday, Nov. 13, 2015 to the science minister, telling him to disqualify the operator of the Monju plant plagued with poor safety records. The Nuclear Regulation Authority said the government-run Japan Atomic Energy Agency must be replaced within six months or the ministry will have to consider shutting down the plant. (Kyodo News via AP)

Japan's nuclear regulator issued a rare warning Friday to the science minister, telling him to disqualify the operator of a plutonium-fueled reactor plagued with a poor safety record, a step that could finally shut it down.

The Monju plant was once considered a "dream reactor" that would make use of the plutonium produced by Japan's regular uranium-fueled reactors as a byproduct in their spent fuel. The ultimatum by the Nuclear Regulation Authority could add further uncertainty to Japanese energy policy, already shaken by the 2011 crisis at the Fukushima nuclear plant.

Japan already has 47 tons of plutonium on hand and no immediate use for it.

The regulator said in the warning that the government-run Japan Atomic Energy Agency must be replaced as the plant's operator within about six months, or the ministry, which oversees the agency, would have to consider shutting it down.

The authority, in a statement to Science Minister Hiroshi Hase, said the atomic agency is not qualified to safely operate the complex reactor.

The agency is considered the only entity that has expertise and the technology needed to run Monju. Unlike conventional reactors that use water as a coolant, the Monju reactor uses flammable sodium, a leak of which caused a fire 20 years ago in an accident that largely doomed the reactor.

Monju has been mostly mothballed since then, forcing the government to resort to an alternative method to reduce its stockpiles of plutonium—mixing it with uranium to produce MOX fuel, which can be used for a portion of the fuel in conventional reactors.

Japan is also planning to restart its Rokkasho reprocessing plant to cope with increasing amounts of nuclear waste from power plants. Rokkasho extracts plutonium and uranium along with waste products from spent nuclear fuel, and Monju's demise would leave fewer options for consuming that highly radioactive plutonium.

The 1 trillion yen ($8.2 billion) Monju plant has not produced power since the 1995 accident, which occurred months after it went online.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said the government takes the authority's warning seriously as "the last chance to regain the public trust."


Explore further

Japan to abandon troubled fast breeder reactor

© 2015 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

Citation: Japan regulator wants plutonium reactor operator replaced (2015, November 13) retrieved 19 May 2019 from https://phys.org/news/2015-11-japan-plutonium-reactor.html
This document is subject to copyright. Apart from any fair dealing for the purpose of private study or research, no part may be reproduced without the written permission. The content is provided for information purposes only.
21 shares

Feedback to editors

User comments

Nov 13, 2015
What folly! And darn dangerous folly, at that.

We do not need this nasty stuff to boil water. We cannot afford it. And we cannot afford to continue to take chances with it.

Look up how many nuclear weapons you can make with 45 tons of Plutonium. Then, tell me why it is a good idea to use this technology.

Nov 13, 2015
weapons you can make with 45 tons of Plutonium. Then, tell me why it is a good idea to use this tech
Your post is not very clear george - are you saying you would prefer that Pu be made into weapons rather than being burnt in reactors?

"there is something else about the speech of psychopaths that is equally puzzling: their frequent use of contradictory and logically inconsistent statements

"The point that the researchers noted was that psychopaths seem to have trouble monitoring their own speech. What is more, they often put things together in strange ways

"Virtually all of the research on psychopaths reveals an inner world that is banal, sophomoric, and devoid of the color and detail that generally exists in the inner world of normal people. This goes a long way to explain the inconsistencies and contradictions in their speech.

"This is not careless speech, of which everyone is guilty at times, but an ongoing indication of the underlying condition"

Nov 13, 2015
Then, tell me why it is a good idea to use this technology.
Dense energy in a small area more ecologically friendly as it does not slaughter millions birds and bats neither ruin natural landscapes in large areas as wind/solar does.

Nov 13, 2015
Oh look at georges ratings page. He gots a rate gang of his own now...

coyes, hame, hupidinoh, wazisezav, genegepuci

This wont save you georgie. Youre in the basement and the door's locked.

Nov 14, 2015
Monju is a typical Japanese plant, found to be hiding errors and mistakes and "accidents" from the public. It is insane to keep on working with the stuff which can kill us, instead of being more intelligent and less greedy, and using alternative and renewable resources.

We only use nukes because of the heavy investment and intense political power the corporations have over government.

Nov 14, 2015
What ARE we going to do with this nasty stuff with the name of the god of the underworld?

Nov 14, 2015
It seems to me that Japan has sufficient wind and geothermal and solar resources for a replacement for nuclear power, its costs and its dangers. They are very bright and resourceful. Like other nations, the problem is politics and the domination of government by Big Business.

So, how do The People of the world fight such power and domination? Solve that, and the other problems will be easier to remedy as well.

Nov 14, 2015
hiding .. "accidents" from the public.
Fukushima incident has caused no deaths. http://www.nytime...isk.html
Japan has sufficient wind and geothermal and solar resources for a replacement for nuclear power
unicorn fart energy

Nov 14, 2015
"unicorn fart energy" produces no toxic waste, is renewable, and is free.

What is your complaint?

Nov 14, 2015
no toxic waste, is renewable, and is free.
It is free since it is subsidized with billion/trillion dollars of taxpayers' money.
"Lithium, Rare Earth, and the Future of Renewbles"
"refining of rare earths lead to increased leukemia and pancreatic cancer rates"
http://futureofen...newbles/
"Solar Panels: Tomorrow's Toxic Waste"
"1.5 billion pounds of solar panel waste containing 2 million pounds of lead"
http://www.mother...ls-toxic
http://www.txses....end-life

Nov 14, 2015
It seems to me that Japan has sufficient wind and geothermal and solar resources for a replacement for nuclear power
-And george kamburoff says this as an expert in H2-initiated Pu fission events and also high-energy alpha radiation, which everybody but he knows can certainly penetrate skin.

Also he assures us that Pu is raining down on idaho.

He draws on his vast knowledge gained from acquiring his phony MS in environmental mgt which turns out to be something about 'life experiences'.

Whatever that is.

Nov 14, 2015
We are entering a Golden Age of energy development. Understanding how Nature cascades processes, using waste energy or materials as inputs to other processes, we can live very comfortably with renewables, and not need the concentrated and dangerous power of nuclear fission or fusion.

We are ripe for it.

Nov 14, 2015
we can live very comfortably with renewables
While millions birds and bats are butchered, wildlife's habitats taken, natural landscapes ruined, in a holy crap palefaces' environmental hypocrisy.

Nov 15, 2015
But now the Pu exists it must be monitored. It must be separated into small packages because if you put it all in one pile it will begin to chain react. Better to chain react in a power station where the rate of reaction can be adjusted and the energy drawn off usefully.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more