Anti-terror retrofits latest Japan roadblock

SINGAPORE • Japan’s nuclear power recovery has hit a surprise speed-bump.

The Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA) refused to extend deadlines for utilities to build emergency facilities for reactors in the event of a terrorist attack and will shut the units if the construction isn’t finished in time, officials from the agency said during a meeting yesterday.

The decision may impact at least 10 reactors operated by Kyushu Electric Power Co, Kansai Electric Power Co and Shikoku Electric Power Co, whose shares declined.

“This decision was very severe,” a Shikoku spokesman said. “We will do what we can to shorten our construction timeline and meet the deadline.”

The surprise move is the latest setback for Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s government, which wants nuclear power to account for at least 20% of the nation’s energy mix by 2030.

Opposition from local governments and temporary injunctions from courts have slowed restarts of Japan’s atomic fleet, forcing operators to shut reactors for months or years.

Kyushu Electric and Kansai Electric weren’t immediately available for comment.

The NRA “wasn’t expected to make such tough decision on this issue”, Reiji Ogino, an analyst at Mitsubishi UFJ Morgan Stanley, said by phone.

“It’s negative for power companies as it’s an entirely new risk” that could lead to shutdowns of operating reactors.

The anti-terrorism guidelines require operators to build separate buildings that include backup power and water pumps for reactors, as well as an emergency meeting room for workers.

The facilities are intended to help avoid meltdowns — like the 2011 Fukushima disaster — in the event of a terrorist attack, such as being hit by a hijacked airplane. — Bloomberg