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Broken cameras raise questions about management system

October 12, 2014

1/3rd of monitoring cameras at Monju reactor found broken


TSURUGA, Japan (Kyodo) -- Approximately a third of 180 monitoring cameras at the Monju prototype fast-breeder reactor were found to be broken during a safety inspection last month, a source familiar with the matter said Saturday, fueling concern about the reactor operator's safety management system.

In May last year, the Nuclear Regulation Authority effectively banned operation of the Monju reactor located on the Sea of Japan coast, after finding more than 10,000 pieces of equipment at the facility in Fukui Prefecture had not been properly inspected.

The broken cameras are among 180 installed to monitor the area surrounding coolant pipes in a secondary cooling system at the reactor building. The cameras were installed following a major fire in 1995 caused by the leakage of sodium used as coolant, and put into operation in 2007, according to the source.

Around a third were broken when the NRA conducted an inspection last month -- and some had been so for more than 18 months, the source said.

The Japan Atomic Energy Agency, which operates Monju, said it was aware of the problem but could not replace broken cameras with the same type as they were no longer being made.

Last month the operator said it will extend the period of intensive reform of the Monju management system by six months through March.

The JAEA seeks a lifting of the effective ban by the NRA on operating the reactor within fiscal 2014, which ends next March 31. But the latest finding could lead to a prolonged ban, the source said.

Since achieving criticality in 1994, Monju has remained largely offline due to a series of safety problems. The reactor was developed to play a key role in Japan's long-standing nuclear fuel recycling policy, potentially pointing the way to energy independence for the world's third-largest economy.

October 12, 2014(Mainichi Japan)

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