Real and Present Threat to Japanese Nuclear Safety

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Japan had admitted it was unprepared for a disaster on the scale of the Fukushima nuclear crisis in a June 2011 report to the UN’s atomic agency, and vowed to implement new safety measures.

This is not the first time that Japan has been forced to form new agencies to re-establish public trust and confidence, in fact Japan created both the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency (NISA) and the Japan Nuclear Energy Safety Organization (JNES), after 35 cases of falsified plant inspection reports were discovered at more than 20 plants in 2002.

According to a Japanese government report to the International Atomic Energy Agency in June 2011, “NISA’s lack of independence from the trade ministry, which promotes the use of atomic power, hampered a quick response to the disaster at Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s Fukushima Dai-Ichi plant this year”.

NISA has even repeatedly tried to influence public symposiums on the use of nuclear energy.

This year, April Fools in Japan brought the realization that a new nuclear safety commission was never realistically able to be implemented by the April 1st deadline set the by the national government, in fact the Diet had not even begun deliberating the related bills. The government hasn’t set a new target date for the implementation at this time.

In its present structure, the main regulatory body, the Nuclear Industrial and Safety Agency , is under the control, and part of the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry, which also promotes nuclear power in the resource-poor country.  NISA is overseen by the NSC, which is itself responsible for formulating safety policy, and the Atomic Energy Commission, which is responsible for nuclear power and research policy. The NSC and Atomic Energy Commission are both part of the Cabinet Office.

As long as the existing organizational structure of the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency remains in place under the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry, and continues to serve as the primary regulatory body, there will be much speculation about the ability to properly and efficiently perform its function.

The Nuclear Safety Commission of the Cabinet Office, which has overseen NISA’s activities, will also remain in place until the creation of the new regulatory agency finally takes place, despite its own shortcomings.

The three commission members whose terms end on April 16 have shown their intention to remain at their posts beyond that date if successors are not decided, because they do not want to create a ”vacuum” in nuclear safety regulation.

Even embattled Nuclear Safety Commission (NSC) chairman Haruki Madarame will remain in office at special request.

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