Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Japan's Nuclear Regulatory Authority Investigates Faults Beneath Fast-Breeder Monju, Operator JAEA Insists They Are Not Active Faults

Nuclear Regulatory Authority's Deputy Chairman and seismologist Kunihiko Shimazaki is leading a team of experts to determine whether the 8 faults that run directly beneath the trouble-prone fast-breeder Monju in Fukui Prefecture are active faults.

Japan Atomic Energy Agency (JAEA) "operates" the fast-breeder reactor which is supposed to be the centerpiece of Japan's fuel cycle policy. In its 22-year history since the test run in 1991, Monju has managed to generate one hour worth of electricity.

The Abe administration insists the fuel cycle policy will continue.

JAEA is a government corporation under the Ministry of Education and Science and the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry - i.e. a landing pad for the top bureaucrats with golden parachutes.

NRA's Dr. Shimazaki has not been political so far, and has practically said about another nuclear power plant in Fukui (Tsuruga Nuclear Power Plant) that the operator doesn't want to see active faults, therefore does not see the active faults which are apparent to him and his team of experts in two-day investigation.

I suspect it's the same thing at Monju.

From Asahi Shinbun (7/17/2013):

もんじゅ断層、現地調査を開始 原子力規制委

NRA starts field survey of faults at Monju


To determine whether there are active faults at Fast-breeder Monju (Fukui Prefecture) operated by Japan Atomic Energy Agency, Nuclear Regulatory Authority started the field investigation on July 17. If the faults are determined to be active, it is likely that Monju will be decommissioned, and the national government will be pressed to revise its fuel cycle policy.


4 members of the expert group including NRA's Deputy Chairman Kunihiko Shimazaki arrived in Fukui in the morning of July 17. They first investigated the location in Minaha-cho in Fukui where the known active fault, "Shiraki-Nyu Fault", which runs 500 meters west of Monju, is exposed. The group will determine whether the faults inside the Monju compound are active, after the two-day survey.


There are nine faults inside the compound, with 8 of them known to be directly beneath the reactor facilities. Experts have pointed out the danger of these faults moving if the Shiraki-Nyu Fault becomes active. In the survey, the longest fault "a-fault" will be the focus. JAEA insists that it is not an active fault, saying there is no evidence that it repeatedly moved in recent years.

By "recent years", JAEA means in the last 100,000 years or so. NRA has made it clear in its new "regulatory standards" that it will consider the last 400,000 years.

Location of the Shiraki-Nyu Fault and Monju, from Asahi Shinbun:

The Shiraki-Nyu Fault in Mihama-cho:

Even without any active fault, Monju should not be operating, for the simple reason that should the road (Route 141) become inaccessible, Monju would be utterly inaccessible except from the sea. Even the ocean access would be problematic after a big earthquake and tsunami:

View Larger Map


Anonymous said...

Faults are not forever.
They will stopped being active and will be replaced by new faults.
Otherwise, if old faults are not replaced by new faults, all the fault would have stopped being active and there would not be any fault anymore.
Maybe monju fault does not exist anymore, so where is the new fault? under which reactor?

Anonymous said...

There's only one reactor at Monju.

Anonymous said...

Active faults?? Was Fuku 1 on top of an active fault?

Japan is by and large the most earthquake prone area on the planet. The maximum acceleration Japanese npps can withstand by design is easily achievable by earthquakes that occour every few years. Kashiwazaki-Kariwa was damaged (2yrs repairs) by a quake that exceeded its design, same for Fuku 1. Would fly on a plane that takes a load exceeding its design on a regular basis?

Finally, fast breeders just do not work: ask the US or France (superphenix), who have effectively given up on similar projects. Monju and the plutonium cycle are just an expensive excuse to pile plutonium.


arevamirpal::laprimavera said...

Didn't our French readers say France was resurrecting the fast breeder project?

Anonymous said...

It's obvious that Japan and their government still believe in fairytales and do want to deal with reality. How many more desasters will it take before they wake up?

Anonymous said...

Sorry, do NOT want to deal with reality

Anonymous said...

@Beppe: Google BN-600, operating since… 1980 (and soon to be replaced by its successor, BN-800). BTW, fast reactors usually go for high fuel burnup, which doesn't produce weapons-grade plutonium, and you can make fuel and breeder blankets that basically avoid this issue.

@laprimavera: The project is ASTRID (Advanced Sodium Technological Reactor for Industrial Demonstration). Apparently, the French are back to smaller projects (also 600 MWe, like BN-600, as opposed to Superphénix, 1240 MWe).

JAnonymous said...

Hi there.

Yes, France is resurrecting the fast breeder concept. I dunno with which money. The name's Astrid for Advanced Sodium Technological Reactor for Industrial Demonstration.

They are going the ITER way : build a 'prototype' so they can avoid criticism if it fails, and raise more money for the actual design, later. The stated goal of the prototype is to study how efficiently sodium-cooled fast neutron reactors can recycle plutonium isotopes (hint : they can't, it's alchemy revisited).

French wiki page here, ping me for a translation :

Speaking of fuel cycle, the AREVA person responsible for assistance to the rokkasho plant is leaving Tokyo this summer. I'll try to find out if they replace him. Before they stationed him in Tokyo, he used to come to Japan on an almost monthly business-trip basis.

On the other nuclear hand, after two changes, the new attache to nuclear affairs at the french embassy in tokyo is as pronuke as it gets...

Our only hope is that either NRA prevents reactors from restarting (not going to happen, delaying at best) or that angry citizens request NPPs to go bust (probably not happening either).

An interesting chart from the nuclear lobby itself :

Also love their FNR page where they state that Monju has been running from 2010 !

arevamirpal::laprimavera said...

Astrid... What a very northern European name.

JA, do keep us posted on the AREVA person for Rokkasho. I think AREVA is right now selling their decon tech to TEPCO very aggressively.

arevamirpal::laprimavera said...

JA, when you have a moment, can you highlight some points about ASTRID? (My French is for sightseeing only...) Why are they resurrecting fast-breeder? Opposition? Technology any different? (other than smaller)

JAnonymous said...

Hi again,

Well I wrote some thoughts and it's too long for one comment. I split it in half and it's still too long for two comments. Seeing a pattern here ?

I give up, i'll try again later :)

Anonymous said...

If faults can become "not active", why are there faults in Japan? They should have been all gone by now. Or maybe, Japan will be free of active faults soon. What a wonderful world, it is like magic.

Anonymous said...

@10:40 thanks for the reference, I did not know about the Russians. However, according to wikipedia the BN-600 too has been plagued by a string of accidents involving sodium and water. The story seems similar to Superphenix, which has been dismissed because of too many problems, including a sodium leak they have never been able to locate (!).
As to BN-600 being operating since 1980, this data alone says nothing if you do not have historical generation data showing how long it has been online. Besides, even if the reactor had to go offline, the local goverment will threaten it with machines guns and keep it operating, which is what is happening: because the bn-800 construction is (surprise!) late and expensive the life of bn-600 has been extended.
Fast breeders, like other nuclear technology, imply a proliferation risk (why does Iran want nuclear energy? why does the US want Iran to stop nuclear development?), besides a lot of deadly waste. In the case of Japan, Monju implies a proliferation *guarantee*, as it is just an excuse to stockpile plutonium (NHK).


JAnonymous said...

FNRs, like other NPPs but to a much greater extent, require a LOT of power to operate even in shutdown state (again, see Monju). You need to keep the sodium hot and flowing at all times.

If the grid fails, you need more than a backup generator. This technical flaw in itself should ban the design altogether, any solution would be a workaround.

We all have seen what happens when a NPP is shut from the grid. Even without a double natural disaster, two things happen :

1/ The reactors are automatically shutdown and the excess power charge provided by the turbine is discharged, loud.

2/ Lack of power makes the backup systems kick in to try to save the plant.

I wouldn't bet much on an FNR being cut from the grid.

For the rest of my commentary, I put it on pastebin here :

arevamirpal::laprimavera said...

THANK YOU, JA! Can I post it as a guest post?

JAnonymous said...

Hi admin,
Sure you can.

There's a lot more going on in the french so-called energy independence. Because french uranium mines are all depleted (but not cleaned up, a lot to say about that too) so Areva is turning to Niger and Mali.

Now you guess why French army is over there to 'save democracy'. You also understand why Areva is footing a part of the bill... BTW, main shareholder of Areva is the CEA we just discussed. Might not be full retard, but it's at least full circle.

Anonymous said...

in your pastebin post you mention that Cs can be dealt with in a sort of human scale time frame (300 years), which corresponds to a reduction to a 1/1000th of the initial quantity of Cs. I am however wondering why this kind of calculations never takes into account the absolute initial amount of Cs. For example, how long does it take for the Cs waste of a 1000 Mw plant operated for 40 years (100 ton * 40 years * 3% of Cs = 120 ton, after 300 years 120 kg) to become nearly harmless? Can we really dispose 120 kg of Cs in the environment (after 300 years)?

thank you,


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