Friday, May 07, 2010

Japan Fires Up Monju Fast Breeder Reactor

Japan uses nuclear power to supply roughly 33% of its electricity. But as popular concerns over steady supplies of fossil fuels grow, many nations are planning to generate ever larger portions of their electrical power from nuclear plants. A breeder reactor "breeds" new fissile material as it operates, leading to a more sustainable nuclear fuel cycle over time -- provided the proper re-processing is available.
The Tsuruga, Fukui Prefecture-based Monju Nuclear Power Plant contains Japan's only prototype fast breeder reactor. This is a special type of reactor that is capable of producing more fissile material than it consumes. In a nutshell, once some material is placed inside, and the machine is turned on, no additional amounts of the stuff need ever be used. The technology holds great promise and was heavily researched several decades ago, but only a handful of FBR remain to this day, of which Japan's is one of the most advanced, ScienceNow reports.

...Between the 1970’s and 1990’s, many countries, including France, Russia, the United States, Germany, and the United Kingdom, attempted to construct such reactors. The prospect of a facility producing more plutonium than it consumes attracted many politicians and scientists, as FBR could potentially be used as supply points for nuclear fuel, to be employed in other fields of research. However, all nations, except for Japan, abandoned the technology mostly due to technical problems, costs, and concerns about safeguarding plutonium, which is used in nuclear weapons. _Softpedia

The fast-breeder reactor was declared reactivated by Monju's director general, Kazuo Mukai, after one of its control rods, which had been inserted to prevent an atomic reaction, was lifted.
It uses plutonium fuel instead of conventional uranium and produces radioactive substances that can be reused as fuel.
It is expected to reach operational levels by Saturday, and then to reach full output by the spring of 2013.
Only Russia and India, alongside Japan, operate fast-breeder reactors, although China says it wishes to start doing so soon. _BBC

H/T NextBigFuture



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