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New safety rules threaten to close 5 nuclear plants in Japan

By
Nicholas Sakelaris
The crippled Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant is seen in Okumamachi, Fukushima Prefecture on March 24, 2011. The triple meltdown spurred regulations that call for greater safety measures. File Photo by Air Photo Service Co. Ltd./UPI
The crippled Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant is seen in Okumamachi, Fukushima Prefecture on March 24, 2011. The triple meltdown spurred regulations that call for greater safety measures. File Photo by Air Photo Service Co. Ltd./UPI | License Photo

April 24 (UPI) -- Japanese authorities said Wednesday five nuclear power plants could be shut down if they don't install anti-terrorism safety measures by their deadlines.

The utilities that operate the plants in western and southwestern Japan had asked the deadlines be extended as they try to comply with regulations to make the plants less susceptible to terrorism. The rules were enacted in 2013, two years after the Fukushima plant disaster.

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The Nuclear Regulation Authority refused the request Wednesday.

The NRA Chairman Toyoshi Fuketa said there is no need to extend the deadline because there weren't any natural disasters that prevented plant operators from getting the work done.

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

"[The] decision was very severe," a Shikoku Electric Power spokesman responded. "We will do what we can to shorten our construction timeline and meet the deadline."

New regulations require remote control technology so plant operators can maintain reactor cooling even when the plant is evacuated. The goal is to prevent wholesale release of radioactive material in the event of a terrorist attack.

In their request for an extension, Shikoku and two other utilities, Kansai and Kyushu, told the NRA last week installing the new safeguards for 10 reactors at five plants could take as many as three years.

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The No. 1 reactor at the Sendai power plant in Kagoshima Prefecture could be suspended if Kyushu Electric Power doesn't finish implementing the measures work by next March. The No. 2 reactor faces a similar deadline in May of 2020.

Officials said a reactor at the Takahama plant in Fukui Prefecture will meet its deadline by August 2020.

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