Japan formally pulled the plug on an US$8.5 billion nuclear power project designed to realize a long-term aim for energy self-sufficiency after decades of development that yielded little electricity but plenty of controversy.
The move to shut the Monju prototype fast breeder reactor in Fukui prefecture west of Tokyo adds to a list of failed attempts around the world to make the technology commercially viable and potentially cut stockpiles of dangerous nuclear waste, Reuters reports.
The reactor has worked for just 250 days of its 22-year lifespan, according to BBC News.
“We do not accept this,” Fukui Governor Issei Nishikawa told ministers involved in the decision.
“This abrupt change in policy breeds deep feelings of distrust for the government,” he added.
Nishikawa strongly backed the project because of the jobs and revenue it brought to a prefecture that relies heavily on nuclear installations, Reuters said.
He said decommissioning work for Monju would not start without local government approval.
Four conventional commercial nuclear stations lie in close proximity to Monju, earning Fukui the nickname “nuclear alley”.
Those like most other nuclear stations in Japan remain closed pending safety reviews or decisions on decommissioning after the Fukushima nuclear crisis of 2011 led to the eventual shutdown of all reactors in the country, Reuters said.
The Fukushima crisis sparked strong anti-nuclear sentiment in Japan, making it harder to pursue projects like the Monju facility which has faced accidents, cover-ups and regulatory breaches since construction began in 1985, the news agency said.
The plant was built to burn plutonium derived from the waste of reactors at Japan’s conventional nuclear plants and create more fuel than it used, closing the so-called nuclear fuel cycle and giving a country that relies on overseas supplies for most of its energy needs a home-grown electricity source.
With Monju’s shutdown, Japan’s taxpayers are now left with an estimated bill of at least 375 billion yen (US$3.2 billion) to decommission its reactor, on top of the 1 trillion yen (US$8.5 billion) spent on the project.
Japan is still committed to trying to make the technology work and will build a new experimental research reactor at Monju, the government said.
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