Japan is reportedly planning to decommission the idled 280MW Monju fast-breeder prototype nuclear reactor at Tsuruga City in Fukui Prefecture.

The Japan Atomic Energy Agency’s JPY1 trillion ($9.84bn) Monju reactor reached criticality for the first time in 1994. 

However, it was forced to shut down in December 1995 due to a leak of sodium coolant and fire.

The Monju fast-breeder reactor is designed to generate electricity while burning plutonium to create more fuel than it consumes.

The closure plan comes as the government believes that the Monju’s upgrade project would face difficulties in gaining public support.

Officials were quoted by Wall Street Journal as saying that the upgrade program of Monju reactor would cost more than $5bn. The upgraded reactor will require more than a decade period to resume operations.

However, cost for decommissioning the reactor is estimated at around $3bn, according to the publication.

Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga was quoted by Reuters as saying that the government will create an expert committee on fast-breeder reactor issues and would decide on a policy for the project by the end of this year.

Japan Institute of Energy Economics nuclear energy manager Tomoko Murakami said: "The move will not have an impact on nuclear fuel balance or nuclear fuel cycle technology development or Japan's international cooperation.”

Meanwhile, Japan would continue to research another experimental fast-breeder reactor, Joyo. It was a predecessor of Monju.

Image: The Monju fast-breeder reactor in Japan. Photo: courtesy of Nife/Wikipedia.