Japan nuclear regulator likely to approve restart of Joyo reactor

Japan's Nuclear Regulation Authority is likely to approve a plan to restart an experimental reactor designed to help develop fast breeder reactors.

The Joyo reactor, located in Oarai Town, Ibaraki Prefecture, started operation in 1977. The experimental reactor is currently the only facility in Japan to carry out tests for developing fast breeder reactors that use plutonium as fuel.

But Joyo's operation has been suspended since an accident in 2007. Its operator, the Japan Atomic Energy Agency, is aiming to resume operation by the end of fiscal 2024 after obtaining approval from the NRA.

At a meeting on Wednesday, the NRA endorsed a draft report on the outcome of its screening of Joyo.

The draft says a set of countermeasures presented by the operator for a possible sodium fire or damage to the reactor core meets regulatory standards.

After soliciting public comments, the draft is expected to be formally approved.

Fast breeder reactors are counted among the next-generation nuclear reactors in the government's plan to maximize the use of nuclear power.

However, the Monju research reactor, which had been playing a central role in the development of fast breeder reactors, has already been decommissioned.

The Japan Atomic Energy Agency says it will continue the development by utilizing Joyo and enlisting cooperation from the United States and France.