TOKYO Aug 12 Japan's experimental fast-breeder
nuclear reactor will be restarted as early as February 2010 after
repeated delays in final safety checks, the Japan Atomic Energy
Agency (JAEA) said on Wednesday.
The 280-megawatt Monju plant, designed to produce more
nuclear fuel than it consumes, has been shut since December 1995
following a massive leak of liquid sodium, just months after the
reactor first started power transmission.
A JAEA spokesman said the company's top executive told the
local Fukui Prefecture earlier in the day that the restart is
scheduled by the end of March at the latest.
JAEA in January had postponed the restart schedule
indefinitely from the previous target of February 2009 to take
into account repair work on holes discovered in the reactor's
auxiliary building and other safety checks.
The Monju plant is located in Fukui prefecture, 400 km (250
miles) west of Tokyo.
Fast-breeder reactors have been beset by technical
difficulties and many countries have abandoned the costly
Monju is a cornerstone of resource-poor Japan's nuclear fuel
cycle programme, with the government spending more than 860
billion yen ($9.02 billion) on it.
(Reporting by Osamu Tsukimori; Editing by Joseph Radford)