Shunichi Tanaka, chairman of the Nuclear Regulation Authority, addresses employees of the NRA secretariat during an inaugural ceremony in Tokyo, Sept. 19. (Yusaku Kanagawa)

by James Conca / via Forbes / October 9, 2012 /

No one wants to make a decision on nuclear power in Japan. This is not surprising since the weak regulatory environment and complicity between government and industry in Japan led to the Fukushima disaster in the first place.

But now it’s time to take charge again and to do it right, using the United States as a model. The first place to start is developing a strong regulatory agency and a questioning safety culture that won’t look the other way just to save someone from embarrassment.

Last month Shunichi Tanaka began as chair of Japan’s new and independent nuclear safety agency, the Nuclear Regulation
 Authority (NRA). With an annual budget of about $600 million and a staff of about 500, the NRA is responsible for developing and enforcing nuclear safety regulations, oversight of the physical security of nuclear sites, nuclear materials safeguards, radiation monitoring, and regulation of the use of radioisotopes in medicine, construction, and food processing (Nuclear Cafe – Nuclear Safety Agency).

Tanaka said that none of Japan’s 50 idled nuclear reactors would restart until the NRA issued its own set of safety rules and applied them to restart decisions, a process that could take up to a year or longer. But the NRA signing off on safety is not the same as authorizing a restart (Japan Times – No Need).

Tanaka, formerly vice chairman of the Japan Atomic Energy Commission, appears to get his authority from Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda as opposed to the central government of the Diet, the Japanese parliament. And that may be causing confusion.

So who has the power to restart nuclear reactors in Japan?

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By Corbett| 1 Comment | Editorials

1 comment

  1. The opening sentence states it clearly: “No one wants to make a decision on nuclear power in Japan.” He goes on to point to the establishment of a nuclear regulatory bureaucracy built on the model of the US! Talk about a building on sand! Speaking of sand, It is under the watchtower of the US’s NRC that the entire Japanese nuclear industry has been built.
    The nuclear sites (50 in Japan) many of which are reaching an unenviable middle age, and are within a short period of time likely to ‘loose their teeth and bowels’ as well, like leviathans knowing that they are soon to be beached, are not an happy herd to manage. The NRA, which, like it’s great Uncle the NRC of the USA, will have a good view of the beach. As a bona fide authority set up by the Diet, now happy to wash its hands of the responsibility of pronouncing ruin, it will take a more studied approach and view the beach from its higher ground. Meanwhile, the sea will roll on and the already beached Moby Monster will spew it’s poison into the ground and the sea, and the fish will die and the birds will mutate and the people will wonder where to go and how.
    Mr. Conca writes that Mr. Shunichi Tanaka “appears to get his authority from PM Yoshiko
    Noda,” And, we would hope that Mr. Noda derives his from the people of Japan, whom, it seems have been registering strong opposition to farming with such unruly and unmanageable gargantuans as the nuclear facilities. And how does Mr. Maehara fit in? From whom does he derive his authority? Will Mr.Tanaka have the guts, if he sees that it is in the best interest of the Nation, and not just some local prefectural government or governor, which likes being financed by the Nuke industry, to permanently shut down the plants? He will have to make some very critical decisions, and be strong enough to bear up under whining of those who are going to have be on the cleanup brigade for the next 40+ years.

    I hope that Mr. Tanaka will be forthright in making decisions. We will pray for him and the other leaders.

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