Japanese nuclear regulators present new safety measures
Tokyo: Japan's nuclear regulators on Monday presented a draft outline of new safety measures to prevent or minimise the consequences of severe accidents like Fukushima nuclear disaster.
Among other features, the Nuclear Regulation Authority said utilities will be required to build a special safety facility housing a secondary control room for reactor operations to guard against accidents from natural disasters or acts of terrorism, such as intentional aircraft crashes.
Japan's new nuclear safety standards are expected to come into force in July, replacing the current ones that proved insufficient in the wake of the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster.
The implementation of new safety standards is a major precondition for Japanese power companies to apply for government permits to put their idled reactors back online.
In the Fukushima nuclear crisis, triggered by a huge earthquake and tsunami on March 11, 2011, three reactors suffered core meltdowns because their key cooling systems failed due to a loss of power supply.
A series of hydrogen explosions also took place, resulting in the release of massive amounts of radioactive substances into the environment.
Before the crisis at the Fukushima Daiichi plant, Japanese authorities left it up to utilities whether to take steps against severe nuclear accidents, based on the assumption such disasters are extremely unlikely.
But new safety measures will become mandatory under the forthcoming standards.
The draft also calls for the installation of vents with filters that can reduce the amount of radioactive substances when pressure needs to be released from reactor containers during emergencies.
The Fukushima complex had venting systems but not with radiation-screening filters.
Utilities will also be asked to prepare emergency power sources so that they can keep cooling reactors even during prolonged blackouts.
In addition to these new measures, the nuclear authority is crafting new safety criteria to deal with earthquakes and tsunami.
Requirements to be included in the new regulations are drawing attention because they could affect the resumption of the country's reactors.
All but two reactors in Japan are currently operating amid safety concerns over the use of nuclear power.