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Nuclear regulator OKs terror response center plans for Sendai plant

The No. 1 (foreground) and 2 reactors at Kyushu Electric Power Co.'s Sendai nuclear power plant in Satsumasendai, Kagoshima Prefecture, are seen in this October 2016 file photo. (Mainichi)

TOKYO -- Construction plans for an anti-terror and emergency response center for the No. 1 reactor at the Kyushu Electric Power Co.'s Sendai nuclear plant were accepted by the Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA) on May 7.

Formal approval for the emergency center at the plant in Satsumasendai, Kagoshima Prefecture, is expected soon. Nuclear plant operators are required to build emergency response facilities within a certain timeframe under new safety standards that took effect in 2013. The plans for the Sendai plant are the first to be approved by the NRA.

The NRA reviewed a number of Kyushu Electric construction plans for the response center, including for maintenance equipment, and accepted some of them. Details have not been made available for safety reasons, but the center will be built some distance from the Sendai plant's reactor buildings. With potential terror attacks in mind, the center will be equipped with water pumps, generators and an emergency control room allowing staff to continue to cool the reactors remotely.

The NRA requires that the emergency response centers be strong enough to withstand being struck by an aircraft, or be located a significant distance from a plant's reactors, and that they have emergency control rooms.

At first, the NRA had demanded that the response centers be established by July this year. However, with many plants unable to meet the deadline, in November 2015 the agency switched to requiring the centers be set up "within five years of the approval of detailed upgrade plans for the reactors themselves."

So far, the NRA has green-lit the restarts of seven reactors at five plants, which are now all on the deadline clock to open emergency response centers. The Sendai plant's No. 1 unit is one of those reactors, and Kyushu Electric has until March 2020 to complete the response center there. If it does not meet the deadline, it will be compelled to shut off the No. 1 reactor until the response center is finished. The deadline for the plant's No. 2 reactor is in May the same year.

The cost of building the response centers has swelled over time, with those for the Sendai plant's two reactors set to reach roughly 220 billion yen -- five times the initial estimate. Kansai Electric Power Co. is also expected to shell out some 222.7 billion yen for response centers for the four reactors at its Takahama nuclear plant in Fukui Prefecture.

(Japanese original by Riki Iwama, Science & Environment News Department)

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