Japan’s Nuclear Regulation Authority is considering not allowing the operator of the prototype fast-breeder nuclear reactor Monju to resume operations before its sloppy safety management is improved, sources close to the matter said Monday.
The expected order, coming after revelations last year that regular safety checks had been skipped, would require the Japan Atomic Energy Agency, the operator of the 280,000-kilowatt reactor in Tsuruga, Fukui Prefecture, to change its maintenance rules and inspection plans, according to the sources.
Although details still need to be worked out, under the agency’s order the operator would not be able to replace nuclear fuel or move control rods — important work toward restarting the reactor, which has been offline since an accident in August 2010.
The operator was found last November to have failed to conduct periodical safety checks on nearly 10,000 out of 39,000 pieces of equipment at the plant by the deadlines.
The Monju reactor first reached criticality in 1994 but was shut down in 1995 due to an accident. Regarded as key to realizing Japan’s nuclear fuel cycle in which spent nuclear fuel from power plants is reprocessed for reuse as plutonium-uranium mixed oxide, or MOX, its restart in 2010, after 14 and a half years, hit a snag within a few months.
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