Japan regulator criticises Monju operator

1 October 2015

Japan's Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA) will question the chief of the Japan Atomic Energy Agency (JAEA), the organisation operating the Monju prototype fast-breeder reactor in Tsuruga, Fukui Prefecture, following a series of safety problems, NHK reported.

In 2013, NRA ordered JAEA to ban test-runs after more than 10,000 maintenance errors had been found, many involving the facility's piping system. Further safety oversights were subsequently discovered, and in late August some 3000 of errors were found in the safety classifications of the equipment and devices at the reactor during NRA's regular inspection which is conducted our times a year.

Some of the errors dated back to 2007, suggesting that previous government inspectors had also overlooked the operator's mistakes. JAEA built the Monju reactor in the early 1990s to recycle used mox fuel. However has been offline for most of the period because of various technical dificulties after it underwent a fire from a sodium coolant leak in 1995.

NRA officials told a meeting on 30 September that they were unable to grasp the exact nature of the problems, because of JAEA's poor handling of the data. NRA Chairman Shunichi Tanaka said the situation was very serious, adding that the findings cast doubt on whether JAEA is qualified to run the reactor. JAEA is to submit a report on the most recent problems by 21 October. NRA will also question JAEA president Toshio Kodama about the management of his organization. Tanaka told a news conference that the ban on test-runs would remain.

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