February 24, 2012 / 8:17 AM / 7 years ago

Japan plans tougher nuclear security ahead of summit

TOKYO, Feb 24 (Reuters) - Japan said on Friday it plans to strengthen security at nuclear power plants following recommendations from the International Atomic Energy Agency, a month before a nuclear security summit in neighbouring South Korea.

Japan is home to 54 commercial nuclear reactors, all but two of which are now out of operation. Public concern has kept those under maintenance from restarting following an earthquake and tsunami last March which triggered the world’s worst nuclear crisis in 25 years.

From March, operators of nuclear power plants and other nuclear facilities will have to prepare batteries and other devices to prevent power loss of equipment monitoring nuclear fuel in the event of a terrorist attack, said Trade Minister Yukio Edano and an official at Japan’s Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency.

They will have to install more metal and nuclear material detectors at exits and build new fences surrounding facilities to improve security and prevent theft of nuclear materials, the official said.

Japan, based on existing IAEA recommendations, has already taken some steps but its nuclear security is still considered relatively lax.

In a survey by the Nuclear Threat Initiative that assessed atomic security in 32 countries with vulnerable nuclear materials, Japan came in at 23 — lower than the United States at 13 but higher than China at 27.

Tokyo Electric Power Co, the operator of the quake-crippled Fukushima plant, drew criticism over its loose security after it was unable to get in touch with workers hired to contain radiation during last year’s crisis.

The Fukushima disaster highlighted the vulnerability of nuclear plants and the scale of damage in the event of a terrorist attack.

In 2010, U.S. President Barack Obama hosted the first global nuclear security summit in Washington. The second summit is to take place in Seoul from March 26-27. (Reporting by Yoko Kubota; Editing by Nick Macfie)

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