Despite uncertainties about earthquake risks, the Japan Atomic Energy Agency plans to restart the problem-plagued Monju prototype fast breeder reactor in Tsuruga, Fukui Prefecture, and begin performance tests by the end of fiscal 2013.
"The timing can change according to moves by the Nuclear Regulation Authority," a JAEA official said Nov. 8.
The government's Nuclear Regulation Authority plans to survey geological faults that cut across Monju's grounds and to assess anti-seismic resistance of equipment at the plant, the core of Japan's nuclear fuel cycle development program.
The JAEA’s plan was presented at a meeting of a science and technology ministry working group that is responsible for drawing up research programs for Monju.
JAEA officials said it will complete equipment inspections before summer 2013, followed by about four months of preparations for a restart, which is expected before the end of fiscal 2013.
The JAEA will then spend two to three years conducting performance tests, with output starting at 40 percent of full capacity and rising gradually before the reactor enters full operations.
The Monju reactor, which was shut down following a sodium leak in December 1995, resumed operations in May 2010. But a component device fell inside the reactor vessel while the reactor was undergoing checkups in August 2010. It has since remained offline.
The government's Innovative Strategy for Energy and the Environment, presented in September, recommended that Monju be used over a limited time frame. Plans under consideration include using the reactor for research to seek ways to reduce the amount of radioactive waste.
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