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Japan to halt nuclear plants if anti-terror steps not taken in time

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 (Kyodo) -- Japan's nuclear regulator decided Wednesday not to allow power companies to operate reactors if they fail to implement sufficient counterterrorism safety measures by specified deadlines.

The decision came after three utilities, which operate five nuclear plants in western and southwestern Japan, had requested that their deadlines be extended as they expect delays in completing antiterrorism steps required under stricter regulations introduced in 2013 following the Fukushima nuclear disaster.

Under the new policy of the Nuclear Regulation Authority, the No. 1 reactor at the Sendai power plant in Kagoshima Prefecture, one of the five complexes, could be suspended if operator Kyushu Electric Power Co. cannot finish the work by its deadline in March next year.

Japan's nuclear plant operators are required to build facilities that are able to maintain nuclear reactor cooling via remote control and prevent the massive release of radioactive materials if the units come under terrorist attacks such as planes being flown into them.

Nuclear plant operators need to set up such facilities within five years of the nuclear safety watchdog approving detailed construction plans for power plants.

Kyushu Electric, Kansai Electric Power Co. and Shikoku Electric Power Co. had sought to postpone their respective five-year deadlines by one to three years, citing reasons such as the need to carry out massive construction work.

Following the No. 1 reactor at the Sendai plant, the No. 2 reactor at the complex is facing a deadline in May next year.

The deadline for the No. 3 reactor at the Takahama plant in Fukui Prefecture operated by Kansai Electric is set to be met in August next year.

At a meeting of the watchdog on Wednesday, an NRA commissioner said, "The construction work did not fall behind schedule because of natural disaster," expressing the view that there is no need to extend the deadlines.

"We cannot overlook the operations of nuclear facilities when they become incompatible with meeting standards," NRA Chairman Toyoshi Fuketa said.

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