Photo/IllutrationKyushu Electric Power Co.’s Sendai nuclear power plant in Satsuma-Sendai, Kagoshima Prefecture (Asahi Shimbun file photo)

"Shimekiri Hon" (Deadline book), published by Sayusha, is full of anecdotes about well-known authors who failed to meet deadlines and came up with pathetically flimsy excuses.

For example, novelist Genichiro Takahashi's go-to cover story is, "I seem to have come down with a cold."

But he also trots out different versions as needed, such as, "This time, my wife has caught it" or, "My wife's grandmother came down with a cold and my wife had to go and look after her," and ultimately, "My cat is sick with a cold."

Admitting how blatant his lies are, Takahashi writes, "Book editors should be likened to benevolent gods for never throwing a temper tantrum at having to hear all that bull."

In short, he knows his editors will always forgive him for his "failings."

But three operators of nuclear power plants, seeking an extension of a very different kind of deadline, found the Nuclear Regulation Authority to be quite unforgiving.

Kansai Electric Power Co., Shikoku Electric Power Co. and Kyushu Electric Power Co. were initially required to install anti-terror facilities against airborne attacks at their nuclear power plants by July 2018.

Having already failed to meet that deadline, the utilities on April 17 asked the government's nuclear watchdog to extend it by another 12 to 30 months, but the plea was rejected on April 24.

The utilities have insisted in unison that installing facilities to remotely cool nuclear reactors would require the time-consuming work of drilling through mountains.

They probably thought this "excuse" was good enough to sway the government into extending the deadline.

No such luck.

The Sendai nuclear power plant in Kagoshima Prefecture will likely be shut down as a result, according to the NRA.

The utilities must be underestimating the odds of any of their nuclear power plants being targeted for a terrorist attack.

Have they already forgotten that North Korea was repeatedly test-launching its missiles until recently? And what about the Fukushima disaster of 2011, which occurred because virtually nobody wanted to consider the possibility of a mega-quake triggering a tsunami?

The "deadline" book mentioned above also contains an anecdote about author Akira Yoshimura (1927-2006), a stickler for punctuality who always handed in his manuscripts early, claiming he had a tendency to start panicking as the deadline approached. And he always attached a note to his editor, apologizing, in effect, for jumping the gun.

I guess it's useless to expect the three utilities to emulate Yoshimura.

--The Asahi Shimbun, April 26

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Vox Populi, Vox Dei is a popular daily column that takes up a wide range of topics, including culture, arts and social trends and developments. Written by veteran Asahi Shimbun writers, the column provides useful perspectives on and insights into contemporary Japan and its culture.