Officials Despair of February Monju Restart Nuke Info Tokyo No. 127

On October 22, a meeting of a committee looking into the safety of the Monju Prototype Fast Breeder Reactor (FBR, 280 MWe, Tsuruga City) began with the chairman, Hirotada Ohashi, grumbling that he was left completely in the dark about the delay of the restart of Monju to February 2009. However, as the meeting proceeded, it became clear that most committee members were pessimistic about the chances of Monju restarting in February. The reason was that it will not be possible to address the many problems identified in a special safety inspection by the Nuclear Industrial and Safety Agency (NISA).

NISA’s first special safety inspection was carried out in May and June this year and addressed issues including problems with sodium leak detectors (see NIT 126). On July 10, the Japan Atomic Energy Agency (JAEA), the agency responsible for Monju, submitted an action plan responding to NISA’s findings and NISA spent September carrying out a second inspection to confirm the status of implementation of the plan. The full report on the second inspection had not been released at the time of the October 22 meeting, but an outline of the results was submitted to the meeting.

The details were extraordinary. For example, it was claimed that JAEA “shows no sign of frankly facing and humbly taking on board opinions from outside the organization”. Committee member Etsuko Akiba exclaimed that she felt sad to hear that things were so bad.

Since the special safety inspection, problems continue with the sodium leak detectors. In addition, a hole in an exhaust duct caused by corrosion was discovered. Committee member Shuichi Nita asked, “What is ‘comprehensive’ about these ‘comprehensive inspections’? I want an explanation of the process behind this.”

It appears that a rigid organization like JAEA is incapable of restarting Monju.

Hideyuki Ban (CNIC Co-Director)

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