Japan's nuclear regulators have turned down requests by power companies to extend the timeframes for installing anti-terror facilities at their nuclear power plants.
The Nuclear Regulation Authority on Wednesday decided to order, in principle, the suspension of operations at the plants if the deadlines for building standby control rooms are not met.
Regulations introduced after the 2011 Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant accident require operators to build such facilities to retain control of reactors in the event of terrorist attacks, such as planes being flown into the plants.
Operators of nuclear plants are required to construct the facilities within five years after a reactor clears the requirements for going back online.
But earlier this month, three power companies asked the regulators to extend that timeframe. Kyushu Electric, Kansai Electric and Shikoku Electric say they will need one to two-and-a-half years longer to build the facilities at five power plants. Seven reactors at four of the plants are already online.
Kyushu Electric has less than one year left before the deadline to build the required facility for its Sendai plant in Kagoshima Prefecture. The utility may face orders to halt operations at the plant, as it will likely take about two years for the facility to be completed.
The nuclear regulators say they will listen to the operators about their situations, including whether they have alternative plans to address the risks.
But NRA Chairman Toyoshi Fuketa says his agency cannot allow nuclear plants to stay online if they do not meet the regulations.