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Japan’s Monju reactor a costly hot potato no one wants to handle via The Japan Times

Japan is missing its own deadline to find a new operator for a prototype nuclear power program that has failed to succeed in the two decades since it was built, threatening the resource-poor country’s support of a technology other nations have abandoned.

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Monju is currently operated by the JAEA, a quasi-government organization that is under the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology. JAEA declined comment. The nation’s nuclear watchdog, the Nuclear Regulation Authority, did not respond to emailed questions regarding the status of Monju.

“We don’t have plans to decommission the reactor,” said Hiroki Takaya, director of the ministry’s International Nuclear and Fusion Energy Affairs Division, which oversees Monju. “We are exploring many different options for who will operate the reactor — either a new entity or an existing company.”

The NRA said in November the science ministry must find a new operator or consider decommissioning. The ministry drafted criteria for a new operator, but has yet to name a replacement, it said on May 27. The ministry hopes to find an operator as soon as possible, but has not set a concrete deadline.

“These turn out to be very expensive technologies to build,” Allison MacFarlane, a former chairman of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, said by email. “Many countries have tried over and over. What is truly impressive is that these many governments continue to fund a demonstrably failed technology.”

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