Japan’s Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA) revealed on Friday that it may give the approval to restart some of the country’s idled reactors as early as next summer, only after they pass safety inspections beginning in the spring. While only two of Japan’s nuclear reactors are currently online, they were given approval under provisional safety standards. The NRA says it is developing new safety requirements that will be imposed starting in July.
Next spring will mark two years since the March 2011 Fukushima disaster, and since then, Japan’s continued use of nuclear power has been a controversial topic, to say the least. Previous regulators were seen as in bed with utility companies, while nuclear power was promoted as safe by the government, allowing TEPCO, the operator of the Fukushima plant, to ignore repeated safety warnings. The newly formed NRA, meant to have more independence from the government and utilities, is still developing its safety standards, and hopes to use initial outlines when it begins inspections in the spring.
A bill was also passed by Parliament earlier this year that will require existing reactors to meet the new regulator’s standards before being allowed to restart. If they fail, they will have to conduct improvements in order to be considered once more. The NRA pledges to take responsibility for the safety of the reactors it approves, but in an about-face attempt to pass the ball, it says the government will have the final decision of which nuclear facilities are restarted. Much of the Japanese public wants to abandon the use of nuclear power altogether, and with general elections being held in less than two weeks, several political parties are pledging to phase out nuclear energy by the 2030s.[via Product Design & Development]