The Japanese government announced on Tuesday that the nation’s new nuclear safety body will make its long-awaited debut next week, on September 19th. Officials say they cannot delay any longer the setup of the new industry regulator, and Shunichi Tanaka will be appointed to lead the commission. The controversial radiation physics expert was also named as a special advisor to the Cabinet, despite failing to gain approval from Parliament earlier this summer.
A year and a half after the Fukushima nuclear disaster, and many have been waiting for a new safety watchdog to replace the current Nuclear and Industry Safety Agency (NISA). Operating under the Ministry of Economy, Trade, and Industry, NISA was seen as a central member of the “nuclear village,” or the tightly connected government, utility companies, and nuclear safety regulator whose collusion was seen as responsible for ignoring the dangers to Fukushima and all of Japan’s reactors. The aim of this new regulation authority is to be more independent from government oversight, as well as transparent in its dealings with utility companies like Tokyo Electric Power Co (TEPCO).
The Japanese Parliament did not give its approval of Tanaka, along with four other members, to lead this new nuclear watchdog. Tanaka specifically was seen as questionable due to his previous position as head of the Cabinet Office’s Atomic Energy Commission, whose interests lied in promoting the use of nuclear power. Goshi Hosono, the Environment Minister and overseer of the nuclear crisis, says the new safety commission must win back the public’s trust through hard work, and while Tanaka had a different stance on nuclear power in the past, his hometown is in Fukushima Prefecture and he has personally helped in radiation clean-up efforts. Five other members of the nuclear regulator will be appointed by Prime Minister Noda after its formal launch.