TOKYO, July 15 (Reuters) – The Japanese government is considering suspending development of a prototype fast-breeder nuclear reactor called Monju, Science Minister Yoshiaki Takaki was quoted as saying on Friday.
Prime Minister Naoto Kan said on Wednesday that the Fukushima nuclear crisis had convinced him Japan should wean itself off nuclear power and eventually have no atomic plants.
“This (Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant) crisis is a major incident. It’s natural to debate this again,” Takaki was quoted by Kyodo news agency as telling a news conference.
The radiation crisis at Tokyo Electric Power Co’s Fukushima plant, triggered by the March 11 earthquake and tsunami, has sparked debate about the role of nuclear power in quake-prone, resource-poor Japan, as well as concerns about power shortages with many of the nation’s 54 reactors now halted.
The operator of Monju last month completed the potentially risky retrieval of a 3.3-tonne device that had fallen into a reactor vessel, although a restart of the long-idled project remained in doubt as worries mount over nuclear safety.
Located on the Sea of Japan coast 400 km (250 miles) west of Tokyo, the 280-megawatt Monju reactor is designed to burn plutonium refined from spent fuel at conventional nuclear reactors to create more fuel.
The government hoped it would help to reduce Japan’s reliance on imports for its energy needs.
The prototype, named after the Buddhist deity symbolising wisdom, was shut for 14 years until May 2010 after a leak of liquid sodium from a cooling system.