Photo/IllutrationTwo reactors at the Sendai nuclear power plant operated by Kyushu Electric Power Co. in Satsuma-Sendai, Kagoshima Prefecture. Prospects are looming that they may be forced to shut down due to a delay in the completion of facilities to respond to a possible terror attack. (Asahi Shimbun file photo)

The government’s nuclear watchdog refused to extend its deadline for the installation of anti-terror facilities at nuclear power plants, raising the prospect that some sites may be forced to shut down as early as in 2020.

The Nuclear Regulation Authority’s decision, announced April 24, followed a request on April 17 by three utilities--Kansai Electric Power Co., Shikoku Electric Power Co. and Kyushu Electric Power Co.--for an extension of the deadline.

The companies said they needed up to two and half more years to comply, citing the enormity and difficulty of such emergency construction.

Nine reactors at five nuclear plants operated by the companies are now in service, having cleared stringent reactor regulations that took force in 2013, two years after the triple meltdown at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant triggered by the earthquake and tsunami disaster.

The regulations obliged plant operators to build an anti-terror facility at each plant within five years of winning NRA approval for reactor restarts.

The facilities are supposed to enable utilities to continue to cool reactors even if an attack involving large aircraft destroys the central control room for the reactor buildings.

Each facility must be set up more than 100 meters from the reactor building, with an emergency control room, generators and other equipment.

But no utilities have completed those facilities so far, including the power companies that have been operating the nine reactors.

The NRA can order a halt to the operations of a reactor when a utility failed to meet the deadline for the installation of the facilities.

Prior to the April 24 decision, some NRA commissioners criticized utilities for having been overly optimistic about being able to build the new facilities.

The initial deadline for completion was July 2018, five years after the new regulations were enforced.

But the NRA extended it to “within five years after the conclusion of the examinations of reactors” because the screening process took longer than initially anticipated.