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Monju wasn't worth it

May 12, 2018


Japan nuclear research project did not pay off: auditors




TOKYO (Kyodo) -- Japan's nuclear research project using a fast-breeder reactor did not yield sufficient results despite taxpayer money spent on it, state auditors said Friday.

The project involving the trouble-plagued Monju prototype reactor, developed to play a key role in fuel recycling, only achieved 16 percent of the planned results while costing the government at least 1.13 trillion yen ($10.3 billion), the Board of Audit of Japan said.


The government has already decided to scrap the reactor, estimating an additional cost of 375 billion yen. But the board noted that the 30-year decommissioning plan could cost more.


The reactor, designed to produce more plutonium than it consumes while generating electricity, barely operated over the past two decades as it experienced a series of problems, including a leakage of sodium coolant and equipment inspection failures.


"Flawed maintenance led to the decommissioning," the auditors concluded in their report.

But the report also brought into the spotlight the absence of systematic evaluation of the project by the auditors as they expressed their opinion on Monju's research and development costs only once in 2011.


Monju was only up and running 250 days after starting operations in 1994, failing to complete test items, according to the report.


On the scrapping cost, the report said it could expand because the current estimate does not include personnel costs and taxes, while noting that the cost of removing the radioactive sodium coolant could change.


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