Japanese government denies responsibility for reactor restarts

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Yesterday, Shunichi Tanaka, head official of Japan’s new Nuclear Regulation Authority stated that the NRA is only responsible for nuclear safety criteria, and not judgements related to restarting idled nuclear reactors.

This echoed a statement also given on Wednesday by Chief Cabinet Secretary Osamu Fujimura, who told reporters that the government would decide to allow the resumption of idled reactors after the NRA had confirmed their safety.  Fujimura also said that the restart of more nuclear reactors may be unnecessary, if there is no demand for the energy supplied by the reactors.

On Thursday however, Fujimura contradicted the statements he made only a day earlier, when he told reporters at a news conference that the government did not have the ultimate say and did not bear the responsibility for reactivating the nuclear reactors, which has lead to further confusion over who is in charge of making the decision.

“As I have repeatedly stated, confirming the safety of reactors is the most important thing when considering a reactivation, and the NRA is in charge of making a decision over their safety as an independent entity,” Fujimura said. “The government has decided to utilize nuclear reactors that have been confirmed as a safe source of power.”

Fujimura refused to clarify the government’s precise role in the process, saying only that once the safety of a reactor has been confirmed by the NRA, it will be brought back online.

In his news conference, Fujimura refused to further clarify the government’s role in the restart process, adding that once the safety had been confirmed by the NRA, that the reactors would be brought back on-line.  Fujimura repeatedly stressed that the NRC was in charge of all safety-related decisions, and that utilities were responsible for explaining restarts to host municipalities and seeking their consent.

“In terms of giving approval, that duty has shifted from the trade minister and the (now-defunct) Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency to the regulatory committee that is now in charge of authorizing” reactor restarts, Fujimura said, dumping the responsibility squarely on the NRA.

The Japan Times reported that “it now appears the government is trying to wriggle its way out of approving any more reactivations and to find some other entity to which it can pass the buck.”

Source: The Japan Times

Source: JiJi Press

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