Generation IV ‘fast breeder’ reactors have long been promoted by nuclear enthusiasts, writes Jim Green, but Japan’s decision to abandon the Monju fast reactor is another nail in the coffin for this failed technology. Fast neutron reactors are “poised to become mainstream” according to the World Nuclear Association. The Association lists eight “current” fast reactors although three of them are not operating. That leaves just five fast reactors ‒ three of them experimental. Fast reactors aren’t becoming mainstream. One after another country has abandoned the technology. Nuclear physicist Thomas Cochran summarises the history: “Fast reactor development programs failed in the: 1) United States; 2) France; 3) United Kingdom; 4) Germany; 5) Japan; 6) Italy; 7) Soviet Union/Russia 8) U.S. Navy and 9) the Soviet Navy. The program in India is showing no signs of success and the program in China is only at a very early stage of development.” The latest setback was the decision of the Japanese government at an extraordinary Cabinet meeting on September 21 to abandon plans to restart the Monju fast breeder reactor. A 2010 article in the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists summarised the worldwide failure of fast reactor technology: “After six decades and the expenditure of the equivalent of about $100 billion, the promise of breeder reactors remains largely unfulfilled. … The breeder reactor dream is not dead, but it has receded far into the future. In the 1970s, breeder advocates were predicting that the world would have thousands of breeder reactors operating this decade. Today, they are predicting commercialization by approximately 2050.” Allison MacFarlane, former chair of the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission, recently made this sarcastic assessment of fast reactor technology: “These turn out to be very expensive technologies to build. Many countries have tried over and over. What is truly impressive is that these many governments continue to fund a demonstrably failed technology.”
Renew Economy 5th Oct 2016 read more »
In February 1983, Mayor Koichi Takagi of Tsuruga, Fukui Prefecture, spoke to residents in the town of Shiga, Ishikawa Prefecture, who were hoping the town would be chosen as the site for a new nuclear power plant. Tsuruga already hosted two conventional reactors and, just a couple weeks before Takagi’s visit to Shiga, preparations began for the construction of a new fast-breeder reactor called Monju, named after the bodhisattva of wisdom. An old Japanese saying goes: “out of the counsel of three comes the wisdom of Monju,” meaning that, by putting their heads together, even those of ordinary intelligence can think up an idea as good as one from Monju. Thirty-three years later, the Monju plant appears heading for the scrap heap. Its history has been one of controversy and scandals, including a 1995 sodium leak and fire, and subsequent cover-up attempt. Last month, the government decided on an overhaul of the Monju project, looking to decommission the idle facility. Tsuruga is unhappy that the cash cow, which meant billions of yen to the local economy over the decades, is drying up, while the central government faces questions about the entire future of Japan’s nuclear fuel cycle program.
Japan Times 4th Oct 2016 read more »