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?