The Yomiuri Shimbun
The science and technology ministry plans to cut spending on research into the development of high-efficiency fast-breeder nuclear reactors by 70 percent to 80 percent in the budget for the next fiscal year, according to sources.
The ministry reportedly intends to suspend research into practical applications of fast-breeder technology--which reincorporates spent nuclear fuel into the fuel cycle--while the national nuclear policy is reviewed in the wake of accidents at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.
The Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Ministry allocated 10 billion yen to such research and development this fiscal year. This figure may be cut by as much as 8 billion yen, the sources said.
Meanwhile, the sources said funding for the prototype Monju fast-breeder nuclear reactor in Tsuruga, Fukui Prefecture, to cover maintenance and other costs will be about 21 billion yen next fiscal year--about the same as this fiscal year.
The total budget allocation for fast-breeder technology in fiscal 2011 was 40 billion yen. Thus, an 8 billion yen cut in research and development would be about 20 percent of the total.
The planned budget cuts suggest the ministry has decided to suspend research and development for nuclear fuel cycle technology until the government compiles a review of the basic national energy strategy.
In July, the government's Energy and Environment Council decided to conduct a comprehensive review of the nation's nuclear policy, and is expected to complete the task next summer.
At a House of Representatives Budget Committee session in August, then Prime Minister Naoto Kan--who supported a move away from nuclear power--said he would consider reversing the national energy policy and shutting down the Monju reactor. However, Kan's successor, Yoshihiko Noda, has said the nation should continue to use nuclear power but try to reduce reliance on it as much as possible.
The ministry's decision to suspend research and development spending but keep the Monju reactor running appears to be in line with Noda's stance.
(Sep. 27, 2011)