Black smoke detected from Monju reactor during test operations

TOKYO —

It as been reported that engineers at Japan’s fast breeder reactor plant Monju made a mistake during testing of the plant’s emergency power generator, which subsequently resulted in the release of black smoke and the ringing of the plant’s fire alarm.

On Tuesday at around 2:30 p.m., the fast breeder-reactor located in Tsuruga, Fukui Prefecture, underwent its monthly emergency diesel generator test operations. However on this occasion, the test did not end well. According to the Japan Atomic Energy Agency (JAERI), before the testing process it is necessary to emit the gas that accumulates in the emergency power generator by opening and then closing the valves. It is reported that the staff working at the plant, after opening the 12 valves installed in the generator, forgot to close six of the them before resuming operations, resulting in the expulsion of the worrying black smoke.

These most recent complications are believed to pose no direct risk to the fast breeder reactor itself, however as a result of the trouble, two of the three emergency reactors have been rendered unusable. JAERI reported this latest incident to the country’s Nuclear Regulation Authority, claiming that the conduct of the staff at the plant is clearly in breach of security regulations. It also made the following statement:

“In order to prevent a recurrence of the same problems, it is necessary to pay meticulous attention to the way in which personnel at the plant carry out their work.”

Source: NHK News

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  • 19

    smithinjapan

    Jeezum crow, already! Shut the thing down, for good! Or at least get a company that knows how to operate the monster it creates.

  • -17

    sengoku38

    Aren't there already plans to build a new fast breeder elsewhere? If it weren't for the anti-nuke crowd the monju reactor would already be replaced by new technology.

  • 11

    marcelito

    Agree smith. sengoku - what kind of BS logic is that " If it weren't for the anti-nuke crowd the monju reactor would already be replaced by new technology."?....they cant even get the monju in a proper working order after decades passed and billions spent on this particular elephant, let alone leap to the next generation technology.

    If it weren,t for the pro -nuke crowd we could all be living in a country supplied by green energy sources developed with the help of untold billions in subsidies which as it were went to the N industry instead. And we would not have to worry about whether another reactor will be able to withstand another " unpredictable " and " once in a hundred years " event when ( not if ) it comes.

  • 1

    Graham DeShazo

    This thing is the biggest public-works boon-doggle in Japanese history, and that is saying quite a lot! I cannot exactly recall, but I believe it's actual operating time since its inception can be measured in hours. Can anyone provide data to back me up? Thank you in advance.

  • 2

    some14some

    Black smoke...radiation free CO?

  • 10

    WilliB

    Monju is an engineering dead end. I can´t understand that Japan is still pursuing the fast breeder technology, after both France and Germany gave up on it.

  • 8

    nandakandamanda

    This story is a smokescreen.

  • 9

    Onniyama

    Mr. Burns: Smithers! Who's behind this? Smithers: Homer Simpson, sir. Sector 7G. Mr. Burns: Simpson, eh.

  • 11

    zichi

    So even the highly trained experts at the Monju Reactor can't get it right which don't bode well for what happens at the other NPP's?

    This expensive experiment which has to date only generated one hour of power needs to be finally shut down and the plant decommissioned.

  • 5

    daito_hak

    @Graham

    Yes sure! The Monju reactor have cost the japanese tax payers over 1 trillion yen and has produced so far one hour worth of electricity. Yes one hour! In any place in the world such a fiasco should have naturally ended up in the project decommission. Well not here in Japan, what can we say?

    And to make things worse, it has been discovered last year that the Monju operator paid ¥109 million in ‘member fees’ to related entities. Corruption is keeping this thing around not rational thinking.

    http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2012/01/10/news/monju-operator-paid-109-million-in-member-fees-to-related-entities/#.UYH8pZVeOls

    And we shall remember that the reactor is a fiasco since its early time when a fire originated from a sodium leak in 1995 and when the government tried to cover it up.

  • 4

    YongYang

    Land of the White Elephants. Waste. Waste. Waste. Dangerous, mad and very disturbing.

  • 2

    Farmboy

    It is reported that the staff working at the plant, after opening the 12 valves installed in the generator, forgot to close six of the them ...

    So...truthfully ... do all nuclear power plant folks have to do a homestay in Kentucky?

  • 1

    SquidBert

    Editors,

    According to the Japan Atomic Energy Agency (JAERI),

    JAERI (Japan Atomic Energy Research Institute) is no more The acronym you were looking for is JAEA.

  • 5

    daito_hak

    @sengoku38

    I don't understand your logic here. What the "anti-nuke crowd" should fear is in fact the Monju project and the craziness around using fast-breeder reactors. And what the new technology are you precisely referring to?

    Fast-breeding reactors are for many politicians in Japan the solution for everything, the promise of energy independence for Japan, the sustainability for blindly producing energy in a society which only knows to waste it and reducing its cost. The only official reason that Japan is still trying to use this failed technology is that it still views it as a solution more than a problem.

    Now fast-breeding reactors are a terrible solution. Not only it's very difficult to make them profitable in operation due to their complexity, they are also dangerous. Incredibly dangerous. Nations who have far more expertise in nuclear energy than Japan (France, USA) have given up about this thing because it's essentially difficult to operate safely. So how on Earth a nation with millions of Earthquakes every year (the majority of them being low magnitude we don't notice them) can still think of operating such dangerous technology? What can of arrogance can bring such madness?

    All the difficulty of operating them relies on the use of sodium for the coolant. Due to their nature of producing more fuel than they consume (the main reason why the greedy Japanese politicians want them), free neutrons are not slowed down by any moderator like it's the case for traditional reactors (pressurized water reactor or boiling water reactor) where water is used for both the coolant and the moderator. Fast-breeding reactors use sodium for the coolant and this is where the tricky part is. Sodium is highly unstable when in contact with water and leads to explosions or sodium leak could lead to sodium fire.

    Also in fast-breeder reactors, sodium reacts actively with air, high thermal stress complicates reactor vessel and steam generator design, fuel handling is very difficult, sodium is strongly activated by nuclear bombardment and special precautions must be taken to contain sodium which may leak out of the primary or secondary loop and to prevent its contracting atmosphere or water.

  • 1

    kimuzukashiiiii

    you actually couldn't make it up - nuclear power in this country is a farce.

  • 1

    daito_hak

    And by the way, it does not seem that there is any plan to build fast-breeder reactors somewhere else in Japan. You might be here confusing with the use of MOX fuel.

  • 0

    Harry_Gatto

    ........ underwent its monthly emergency diesel generator test operations.............. before the testing process it is necessary to emit the gas that accumulates in the emergency power generator by opening and then closing the valves. It is reported that the staff working at the plant, after opening the 12 valves installed in the generator, forgot to close six of the them before resuming operations, resulting in the expulsion of the worrying black smoke.

    I don't understand this, they are testing a diesel generator, hardly high tech stuff. What gas accumulating where in the generator? Which valves are they referring to? Anyone know more about this and can explain?

  • -1

    SquidBert

    @Mr Gatto,

    I am not entirely sure but I think gas here likely refers to generator fuel.

  • 0

    Urqinchina

    @daito hak. Thanks for explaining it in a sile and concise way. My question is- If Japan has been quite relaxed about handling nuclear power plants, how in the hell can they operate a fast breeder nuclear power plant?

  • 0

    Urqinchina

    Sorry. Sile = simple

  • 2

    Thunderbird2

    Right so it was the generator producing the smoke, not the reactor itself? As in a dirty diesel engine produces black smoke?

  • 0

    SquidBert

    I do think that is the story they are trying to tell.

  • 2

    daito_hak

    To the editors

    " ....two of the three emergency reactors have been rendered unusable. "

    I think there might be a confusion here. Are you maybe talking about generators not reactors? It's difficult to quite understand what you mean by emergency reactors? Actually no reactor is involved in this incident I believe.

  • 2

    nandakandamanda

    And that ladies and gentlemen (daito et al) is the smokescreen. Now we wait for the mirrors.

  • -4

    WilliB

    Marcelito:

    " If it weren,t for the pro -nuke crowd we could all be living in a country supplied by green energy sources developed with the help of untold billions in subsidies which as it were went to the N industry instead. "

    For your benefit, I hope you are being sarcastic here. The untold billions poured into subsidies for hare-brained "green power" schemes could surely have been put to better use.

  • 2

    nandakandamanda

    Just had a dig around some J sites and came across an interesting nugget.

    The story is that liquid sodium needs to be kept warm to minimum of 97 C to remain a liquid when doing the cooling that water might do in a pressurized water-cooled reactor. These generators above are for creating heat to keep the liquid metal liquid and they use quite a bit of power in themselves. If one breaks down, there are two back-up units because the sodium must never solidify.

    In this latest incident two of the diesel generators were taken out by the bumbling operators, leaving the final one in working order, but with no back-up.

    Can anyone verify? Lucky it was just a test, I guess.

  • 0

    SquidBert

    Original source for this news was NHKnews http://www3.nhk.or.jp/news/html/20130430/k10014290921000.html , seems rocket news messed up the translation a bit.

    NHKnews also reports that the fault line running under the plant is not active (according to the operator). http://www3.nhk.or.jp/news/html/20130430/k10014290921000.html

    So basically everything is really hunky dory over there, and they are ready to go back to business as usual, which is perhaps even scarier than fault lines and black smoke from generators.

  • -1

    SquidBert

  • 4

    smithinjapan

    You have to love when a government tells you how much something is necessary to save costs but spends literally billions and billions on something that gives a single hour of electricity back.

  • 7

    zichi

    WilliB

    The untold billions poured into subsidies for hare-brained "green power" schemes could surely have been put to better use.

    If it's untold how do you know it's billions?

  • -2

    daito_hak

    Sodium is solid at room temperature (20 ºC), melts at 371 K (97.85 ºC) and boils at 1156 K (882.85 ºC). So yes they surely need generators to keep it liquid and apparently this is what they screwed up.

    However I am not sure if there is any decaying nuclear material inside the reactor that would pose an imminent danger if they loose the coolant.

  • 1

    smithinjapan

    daito: "However I am not sure if there is any decaying nuclear material inside the reactor that would pose an imminent danger if they loose the coolant."

    I'm pretty sure 'loosing' coolant would do harm in any situation.... or did you mean 'losing'?

  • -1

    CH3CHO

    The news is about a diesel power generator, which is used for emergency back up for the fast breeder reactor. Every diesel power generator emits "black smoke".

  • 0

    daito_hak

    @smithinjapan

    Yes sorry, I meant "lose" not "loose". My apologize.

    What I exactly mean is that how fast it can get serious after losing the coolant strongly depends on how long the nuclear fuel has been decaying. Has the Monju ever been restarted since 1995, I don't remember?

  • 2

    gogogo

    Idiots! It's not like they are making bread, they mess up people die! Government needs to start fining companies

  • 1

    No Miso

    Worrying black smoke from a diesel generator? Anyway, since the smoke was black, no new pope today then.

  • 5

    zichi

    Monju has been in a state of shutdown for years. Was suppose to start again last year but it didn't because something happened again, another spanner in the works?

    The last gov't said it would be decommissioned, nothing from the new gov't on it?

  • 3

    daito_hak

    Just watched the NHK news from 9:00 pm and not a word about the incident. Not a single word when in fact they must report every incident occurring in a nuclear power plant.

    Instead they talked about Abe who is trying to sell nuclear power plants to Saoudi leaders and showed him saying that Japan is perfectly legitime to sell them its crap because of its high standards in nuclear safety. Yes the country that brought to the world the Fukushima disaster notably because of low safety standards is openly lying and all of this is nicely served as propaganda from the government right there on a public channel.

    This is hopeless....

  • 4

    zichi

    The main purpose of the Monju reactor wasn't to generate electricity, which at best would be only about 278MW, a quarter of modern day reactors. The Monju reactor was built to produce MOX fuel but that hasn't happened shown by a shipment of KEPCO MOX fuel, which left France a couple of weeks ago and will arrive in the country in about two months.

    KEPCO will load the MOX fuel into its Takahama reactors which its planning to restart this autumn.

  • -2

    nigelboy

    Just watched the NHK news from 9:00 pm and not a word about the incident. Not a single word when in fact they must report every incident occurring in a nuclear power plant.

    Because it happened on the 30th and reported on the 30th.

  • 0

    kiyoshiMukai

    maybe those generators have big filters. those filters had valves and were closed. when the generators started those valves were closed and the engine was damaged

  • 0

    CraigHicks

    Two separate issues: 1.The danger of accidents at Monju 2.Spending money on prototype energy generation.

    There is no problem with spending lots of money on prototype energy generation if it may yield future results. There is a huge problem with spending lots of money on Monju because the risks far outweigh the potential benefits.

    Sorry if what I am saying seems pedantic.

  • 0

    electric2004

    As Squidbert correctly stated, the name of the agency is JAEA. The name JAERI disappeared, after JAERI and the cycle laboratory were unified several years ago.

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