Toshimitsu Motegi, chairman of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party’s Policy Research Council, on Friday called for decommissioning the Monju prototype fast-breeder nuclear reactor in central Japan as a cost-effective step for the troubled facility.
In an interview, Motegi said that he cannot think of any option other than decommissioning for the reactor in Tsuruga in Fukui Prefecture, which is operated by the Japan Atomic Energy Agency.
“Now is the time to make a decision,” Motegi said.
The Monju reactor, which reached criticality for the first time in 1994, has been in operation only for 250 days so far, while more than ¥1 trillion has been spent on the reactor, a core facility for Japan’s nuclear fuel cycle policy.
He also cited a failure to find a new operator of the reactor to replace the JAEA, though the Nuclear Regulation Authority urged the education and science minister to take such a step in November last year.
The JAEA is effectively banned from restarting the reactor following a series of problems, including its failure to conduct maintenance checks properly.
Motegi said hundreds of billions of yen more would be necessary for the reactor to meet the current stricter reactor safety standards for restart.
Also in the interview, Motegi said that the LDP will start discussions Tuesday on whether to extend the maximum term of office for the LDP president.
The LDP will revise its rules at a party convention next year if it reaches a conclusion on the issue by year-end at its headquarters for political system reforms, he said.
The LDP currently sets the maximum term of its president at two consecutive three-year terms. Some party members have called for allowing Abe to serve another three years to allow him to remain prime minister when Tokyo hosts the 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games.