TSURUGA, FUKUI PREF. – The operator of the Monju prototype fast-breeder reactor in Fukui Prefecture is suspected of falsifying an inspection report after regulators later found new pieces of equipment there that hadn’t been inspected, Nuclear Regulation Authority sources said Thursday.
The experimental reactor in Tsuruga is run by the Japan Atomic Energy Agency. It is designed to use extracted plutonium and uranium to produce more fuel than it burns while generating electricity. The problem-ridden reactor, however, was effectively banned from operating last May after its lax safety inspections were revealed.
The discovery and the JAEA’s alleged failure to report it to the regulators are all but certain to keep the reactor from operating for some time, although the aging Monju project is expected to stay alive under the government’s revamped energy policy.
In November 2012, Monju reactor equipment was found not to have been inspected in about 10,000 cases.
JAEA said in its report last September that while it had failed to inspect reactor equipment in about 14,000 cases, it finished inspecting all of the pieces, roughly 47,500 in all, that were subject to the investigation, including those that had not previously been inspected.
But when the regulators inspected about 80 pieces of reactor equipment last month, at least nine that were related to the Monju reactor’s secondary cooling circuit had not been inspected by JAEA, the sources said. And JAEA failed to report it.
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