Shunichi Tanaka, the newly appointed head of Japan’s nuclear safety commission, said on Wednesday that if there was any evidence the fault line found under the recently started Oi nuclear plant was active, the facility would be shut down immediately. As the former vice chairman of the Japan Atomic Energy Commission, Tanaka’s acceptance into his new position is yet to be approved by the Diet, Japan’s parliament. As part of his questioning by the Lower House this week, he spoke of how the nuclear plant in Fukui Prefecture would be addressed.
Kansai Electric Power Co. (KEPCO), the utility that operates the Oi nuclear plant, was told by Japan’s Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency (NISA) that a recently discovered fault under the plant needed to be reinvestigated. Tanaka, a radiation physics expert, stated that the new nuclear safety agency, designed to be more independent from government and utility company influence, would not just accept KEPCO’s word about the plant’s safety. He added that they will be active in conducting their own investigation into the matter.
Tanaka also spoke of other goals he hopes to implement, such as reassessing the safety requirements that idled reactors need to pass in order to be considered for restart. He has received fair criticism for his background, as the Japan Atomic Energy Commission was considered as being a pro-nuclear party. But Tanaka is also noted for having come from the city of Fukushima, as well as having participated in radiation clean-up efforts after last year’s nuclear disaster. The Diet has yet to make its final decision about Tanaka’s appointment, however there is a goal of having the new nuclear safety regulator established by this September.