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Gov't tables option to halt development of Monju reactor.

TOKYO, May 23 Kyodo

The government presented Wednesday four options for the future of Japan's trouble-prone prototype fast-breeder reactor Monju, including one to halt its development in the wake of the Fukushima nuclear crisis.

The science ministry tabled the options at a meeting of the governmental Japan Atomic Energy Commission, which has been reviewing the nation's policy of establishing a nuclear fuel reprocessing cycle that draws heavily on use of Monju. The panel will officially study the possibility of decommissioning the reactor for the first time.

The other three options involve keeping to the government's existing plan to test run the reactor for about 10 years to achieve its practical use, continuing test operation but deciding later whether to stop Monju's development based on test results, and shifting the reactor's purpose to burning radioactive waste as part of international cooperation.

Monju, located in Tsuruga, Fukui Prefecture, has been regarded as key to realizing the country's nuclear fuel cycle, in which spent nuclear fuel from power plants would be reprocessed for reuse as plutonium-uranium mixed oxide, or MOX, fuel.

The reactor is intended to use spent fuel from nuclear reactors and produce more nuclear fuel than it consumes. But it has been plagued by a series of mishaps, casting doubt on the project's viability.

The Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Ministry proposed the four options in response to the nuclear fuel cycle policy review by the government panel, which involves suggestions to bury spent nuclear fuel deep underground for direct disposal and to continue to pursue the reprocessing of spent fuel.
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Publication:Japan Energy Scan
Date:May 29, 2012
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