The Monju prototype fast-breeder atomic reactor in Japan will be scrapped, the government formally announced on December 21.

The reactor, in Tsuruga, Fukui Prefecture, has been a magnet for controversy, reports the Japan Times. It rarely operated over the past two decades despite its planned role as part of the country's nuclear recycling program.

The plant operated briefly in the mid-1990s, but has since been idle.The plant operated briefly in the mid-1990s, but has since been idle.The ministerial decision came in spite of a failure to obtain local support for the plant's decommissioning plan. It reportedly was also the end of a process that included a discussion of Japan’s overall fast-reactor policy by the government panel.

The government has invested more than ¥1 trillion ($8.5 billion) in research and development for the reactor — which was designed to produce more plutonium than it consumes while generating electricity — in hopes it would serve as a linchpin of nuclear fuel-recycling efforts.

The government will still continue to develop fast reactors in pursuit of a nuclear fuel cycle that reprocesses spent fuel and reuses plutonium and uranium extracted through reprocessing.

The government has calculated it will cost at least ¥375 billion over 30 years to fully decommission the facility. It plans to remove the spent nuclear fuel from the reactor by 2022 and finish dismantling by 2047.

Monju achieved sustained nuclear reactions in 1994. But problems, including a leak of sodium coolant in 1995, left it largely mothballed since then.

Restarting operations at the plant would have cost at least ¥540 billion, according to government forecasts.

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