After months of opposition and delays, Japan finally inaugurated the new Nuclear Regulation Authority on Wednesday. After last year’s Fukushima nuclear disaster, the cover was blown on the existing watchdog organization, which was found to have played a major contributing factor in ignoring the dangers posed by a tsunami or earthquake. In addition the new agency making its debut, the government ever so quickly withdrew its support for ending Japan’s use of nuclear power.
The five-member Nuclear Regulation Authority will be led by Shunichi Tanaka, a nuclear physicist who has been criticized for having personal interests in the promotion of nuclear power in the past. With this new agency taking over as of Wednesday, the previous regulator, the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency (NISA), was shut down on Tuesday night. NISA was operated under the Ministry of Economy, Trade, and Industry, and was seen as a central member of the “nuclear village,” or the tightly connected government, utility companies, and safety regulator whose collusion was found to be responsible for the Fukushima disaster. The Nuclear Regulation Authority is now meant to operate in a position independent from the government, as well as free of influence from utility companies.
It’s probably for the better that the Japanese government sets up a new nuclear watchdog, as they won’t be fulling their promise of reaching zero nuclear reliance by the 2030s. Just Friday of last week, the government said it would adopt that goal for its future energy policy of Japan, but then today it said that it would not give that plan the full Cabinet approval, and would therefore only take it “into consideration” for future choices. So it’s good that we have the new Nuclear Regulation Authority to make sure we don’t have any tragic repeats of March 2011. Oh wait, the roughly 350 employees who worked NISA are being transferred to the new organization. I guess nothing ever really changes in Japan, does it?[via The Republic]