Photo/IllutrationThe Japan Atomic Energy Agency’ Joyo experimental fast reactor in Ibaraki Prefecture (Asahi Shimbun file photo)

The nation's nuclear watchdog has slammed the operator of the Joyo experimental fast reactor in Ibaraki Prefecture for its approach to safety concerns in seeking an early restart.

Shunichi Tanaka, chairman of the Nuclear Regulation Authority, on April 26 labeled the Japan Atomic Energy Agency’s proposal to bring the reactor back online as “absolutely unacceptable.”

The NRA on April 25 suspended its screening of Joyo's restart plan based on stricter safety standards introduced after the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster.

“Has the JAEA seriously reflected on the accident at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant?” Tanaka asked at a news conference on April 26. “It said that explaining the restart (to municipalities) would take too much trouble. Its attitude toward the communities is wrong.”

The JAEA has applied to the NRA to restart the reactor with a plan to operate it with a thermal output of 100,000 kilowatts, rather than its full capacity of 140,000 kilowatts.

On April 25, JAEA officials explained that it would be able to restart the reactor faster by limiting the thermal output because that approach would save it time and effort in providing the necessary explanations to municipal authorities.

If the reactor operates with an output of 100,000 kilowatts, only local governments within a 5-kilometer radius of the reactor are required to produce evacuation plans.

However, when operating with an output of 140,000 kilowatts, local entities within a 30-km radius of the reactor are required to come up with evacuation plans.

Using a motorcycle analogy, Tanaka said the JAEA's plan is tantamount to saying that the operator needs a “license for a 50cc bike as long as it drives a 750cc motorcycle at a speed of 30 kph or under.”