FUKUOKA – A reactor at a nuclear plant run by Kyushu Electric Power Co. was halted Monday after the utility was unable to complete on schedule anti-terrorism measures required by regulators — the first such suspension under stricter rules introduced after the 2011 Fukushima nuclear crisis.
The No. 1 reactor at the Sendai nuclear power plant in Kagoshima Prefecture was shut down in the afternoon ahead of the Tuesday deadline set for implementing the safety measures.
Kyushu Electric will aim to reboot the unit on Dec. 26 after regular safety checks and completion of necessary facilities.
Under requirements introduced in 2013 by the Nuclear Regulation Authority, nuclear plant operators must build facilities that can withstand a terrorist attack — such as a plane being flown into the site — without succumbing to major damage such as massive leakage of radioactive materials.
Coolant pumps and emergency power sources must be positioned apart from the reactor units.
The No. 2 reactor at the Sendai plant is also scheduled to be halted in May for the same reason, and restarted in January next year. Kyushu Electric says it will rely mainly on thermal power generation to make up for the electricity shortage and expects no disruption in its power supply.
The construction plan for the anti-terror facilities at the No. 1 reactor was approved in May 2018, but Kyushu Electric said only 50 percent of electric and machinery work was complete as of February, while 90 percent of civil engineering work was done. The facilities are expected to be ready in December.
Kansai Electric Power Co. also plans to suspend operations at reactors Nos. 3 and 4 at its Takahama plant in Fukui Prefecture for about five months from August and four months from October, respectively, after missing the industry regulator’s deadline to build counterterrorism facilities.
The power industry has fallen behind in its efforts to improve safety and prevent serious accidents. The new regulations originally mandated construction of such facilities by July 2018, but the deadline was later extended to five years after the units cleared the NRA’s new safety standards.
Utilities had asked for a further extension of the deadline as they sought to make the necessary changes while continuing to run their nuclear plants, which are said to have lower fuel costs than other power-generation methods.
But last year the regulators decided instead to order suspensions for companies unable to meet the deadline.
Kikuo Kuwahara, 70, an animal clinic chief in the city of Satsumasendai, near the Sendai nuclear power plant, said, “Even if anti-terror facilities are created, there still remain risks of accidents. The whole Sendai nuclear plant should be scrapped.”