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Japan Regulator Releases Report on Tougher Nuclear Safety Rules

Japan’s Nuclear Regulation Authority plans to draw up a draft report on tougher safety standards as early as this month that will add to the cost of building and running atomic power plants.

The NRA, set up to replace the previous regulator after the Fukushima disaster, may require nuclear plant operators to add a secondary control center built away from the reactor buildings, additional backup emergency cooling for reactors and radiation filter-vents, according to the draft.

All but two of Japan’s 50 reactors are offline for safety checks after Fukushima and before any restarts they will need to meet NRA safety standards, which the regulator has said will be ready in July. Earlier this week, NRA chief Shunichi Tanaka said checking all of the idled reactors will take longer than three years, conflicting with a ruling party Liberal Democratic Party election pledge.

“We can’t approve a restart within three to four days after the request is filed,” Tanaka said at a news conference on Jan. 9. If utilities need to strengthen nuclear facilities based on the new safety standards, it will take six to 12 months for the watchdog to assess one reactor, Tanaka said.

Utilities including Tokyo Electric Power Co. and Kansai Electric Power Co. have suffered record losses due to nuclear shutdowns and ballooning fuel costs for replacement power plants that burn oil, coal and natural gas.

To meet the tougher nuclear safety standards, the utilities will have to spend tens of billions of yen, the Nikkei newspaper reported earlier this week. The draft report doesn’t include any cost estimates.

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