On Friday afternoon, the Japanese government’s Lower House approved a law that will see the creation of a new nuclear regulator by September of this year. This only comes after months of delays, but is still an important necessity in improving safety measures and attempting to restore the public’s trust after the terrible Fukushima nuclear crisis last year. Dubbed the “nuclear village,” the cozy, beneficial relationships between utility companies, regulators, and politicians was uncovered in the investigations of the worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl.
After months of arguing between opposing political parties, they have agreed that the new regulating commission will have the choice to change the rules that currently limit the use of a nuclear reactor to 40 years. Out of Japan’s 50 nuclear reactors, at least a dozen or more are over 30 years old, while another three have already been in operation for close to 40 years. As a large part of Japan’s population is calling for an abandonment of nuclear power, giving a regulator the ability to extend the life of a reactor seems to be a step in the opposite direction.
The new regulatory commission would have five members, and be independent from the government’s Ministry of Trade, whose Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency (NISA) has been heavily criticized for their oversight. This new commission would actually be handling all the responsibilities of NISA going forward. Many local leaders in Japan’s western Kansai region called for the creation of a new regulatory agency as a requirement for restarting the nuclear reactors in Oi, Fukui Prefecture. As all leaders who were originally in opposition of the restart have now given their approval, it is expected that the call to restart the Oi nuclear facility will come sometime this weekend, if not first thing Saturday.