Japan halts review of national nuclear policy after draft report scandal

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Due to the ongoing crisis at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant of Tokyo Electric Power Co., the nation's nuclear energy policy was facing a major review.

The Japan Atomic Energy Commission has decided to suspend a review of the country’s nuclear policy guidelines currently being conducted by an expert panel after some of the panelists expressed concerns over the selection of some of the panel, which includes members from power companies and research institutes that are promoting nuclear power.

The experts also criticized a working group set up by the commission which had distributed an unreleased draft report distributed in closed door sessions to people involved in the government and in the power companies who were promoting nuclear power including the Federation of Electric Power Companies of Japan, Japan Nuclear Fuel Ltd. and the Agency for Natural Resources and Energy.

The expert panel said it is still not clear why the working group distributed the draft, and called for an investigation by a third-party. The panel strongly criticized the atomic energy commission.

The commission decided to temporarily halt its review of the guidelines and exclude from the panel any persons from the nuclear industry and research institutes promoting nuclear power.

The head of the commission, Shunsuke Kondo, said he plans to rethink the commission from scratch following the nuclear accident and try to recover public trust in the commission. The commission plans to draw up concrete proposals by the next meeting of the expert panel.

If the nuclear fuel cycle policy is abandoned, about 3,000 tons of used nuclear fuel already transported to Rokkasho must be returned to each nuclear station, as agreed in a pledge with the Aomori prefectural government.

Source: NHK

Japan’s former leader blamed missteps in handling last year’s nuclear crisis on advice from experts with a vested interest in preserving nuclear power.  Former Prime Minister Naoto Kan resigned in September after being criticized for government failures during the disaster. He told the parliamentary panel he felt afraid when nuclear officials kept failing to explain conditions at the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant, where three reactors melted down following the magnitude 9.0 earthquake and tsunami on March 11, 2011.

“Under Japanese law, experts at Tepco, the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency and the Nuclear Safety Commission are supposed to be responsible for making a correct assessment of the conditions of the reactors,” Mr. Kan said. He said he listened to the advice of such government and industry experts too uncritically, even though they had long been active in promoting nuclear power.

“I felt I was in an information blackout at the prime minister’s office,” he added. “NISA didn’t tell me anything about what could possibly happen and what preventive measures need to be taken.”

Mr. Kan’s government declined to accept an offer from the U.S. government to station American experts at the prime minister’s office during the crisis, the panel said. Mr. Kan said that he wasn’t aware of that offer, but that Japan couldn’t have accepted foreign experts in his office.

Source: Wall Street Journal


A government report says the Fukushima nuclear disaster has made it clear that that pollution from nuclear substances is the largest problem concerning the environment, and that a more solid system to decontaminate the fallout from the nuclear accident last year must quickly be put in place.

To promote measures to reduce low-dosage exposure, the report says the government and experts should speak directly with residents and provide information about any negative health effects that they may be exposed to.

It says the fallout is worrying people not only in Japan but also around the world, so quickly reducing the effects it will have on human health and on the environment is an urgent task.

Source: NHK

In the wake of the accident at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant last year, the environment ministry decided it is safe for people to bathe in seas and rivers where the water contains less than 50 becquerels of radioactive substances per liter.

On Monday, the ministry proposed setting a new standard for safe swimming at 10 becquerels per liter, the same level as that for drinking water.

Source: NHK

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