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HOME  > Past issues  > 2018 February 7 - 13  > Nuclear watchdog should have teeth that bite
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2018 February 7 - 13 [SOCIAL ISSUES]

Nuclear watchdog should have teeth that bite

February 7, 2018
Akahata ‘current’ column

Last week, the Nuclear Regulation Authority held an open screening session to check to see if the Nos 1-3 reactors of the Tomari Nuclear Power Plant in Hokkaido meet current safety standards. In the session, Hokkaido Electric Power Company said that it will adopt a different method for proving that faults running beneath the plant are not active. The utility initially intended to deny the risk of the faults by analyzing data regarding volcanic ash layers under the ground. It is surprising that the plant operator restarted such important research from scratch four and a half years after it asked the nuclear watchdog for permission to restart the reactors at the Tomari NPP.

So far, no NPP has been rejected in the NRA screenings under the new nuclear safety standards. The NRA also gave a green light to the Nos 6 and 7 reactors at the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa NPP operated by Tokyo Electric Power Company, which experienced meltdown accidents at its Fukushima Daiichi NPP in 2011. The organization even approved utilities’ requests to extend the permissible life spans of old reactors.

The Abe government says that it will support the reactivation of reactors that come up to NRA’s new safety standards, disregarding overwhelming public opposition to the resumption of NPP operations. “The government’s position is supported by the NRA which is supposedly independent and neutral,” political scientist Shindo Muneyuki pointed out in his book titled, “Nuclear Regulation Authority”.

According to Shindo, persons in favor of the government’s nuclear power policy are chosen as NRA commissioners. The secretariat of the NRA is filled with former bureaucrats of ministries promoting nuclear power. The new nuclear safety standards are insufficient. The NRA does not have independence or neutrality, two essential qualities for a nuclear watchdog. Shindo wrote, “The NRA should be an organization that envisions a society without nuclear power generation.”
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