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2011年6月28日 (火)

原子力の安全 司令塔と責任の所在が見えぬ


The Yomiuri Shimbun (Jun. 28, 2011)
Current govt set up for disaster mismanagement
原子力の安全 司令塔と責任の所在が見えぬ(6月27日付・読売社説)

What part of government should be in charge of ensuring the safety of operations at nuclear power plants?

It has been unclear who is in command since the start of the ongoing crisis at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.

In the past, it was presumed the duty of handling a nuclear accident should fall on the Nuclear Safety Commission, a body set up under the supervision of the Cabinet Office.

The NSC has five members, all specialists in nuclear science and areas of related expertise. It has a staff of about 100.

The nuclear watchdog body has undertaken, for instance, to lay down safety design guidelines for the construction of new nuclear power stations. The panel has also put together a set of guiding principles to be followed by the national and local governments in responding to nuclear accidents.

The construction of nuclear power plants in Japan rests on the principle of double-checking--that is, the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency, an affiliate of the Economy, Trade and Industry Ministry, examines applications for nuclear power facility construction, based on the NSC's safety design guidelines.
This is to be followed by efforts by the NSC to inspect the results of the NISA examination, thus catching anything the latter's inspection might have missed.

The NSC's strong authority is also evident in its action to be taken if there are grave concerns about the safety of operations at a nuclear power plant.
In that event, the panel is authorized to issue advisory opinions, through the prime minister, to the Cabinet Office and other government ministries and institutions related to such issues.

But the NSC has hardly played a noticeable role in responding to the ongoing nuclear crisis.


Is anyone really in charge?

This is because Prime Minister Naoto Kan has refused to follow his predecessors' policies for dealing with similar accidents.
Instead, the prime minister has added several specialists to a group of his advisers and set up too many new organs associated with his administration's response to the crisis.
All this points to his emphasis on what is called "seiji-shudo," an initiative taken by elected politicians seeking to break the grip of the all-powerful bureaucracy and take greater policymaking authority into their own hands.

Kan is also proud that he is well informed about the technicalities of nuclear technology, and he has refused to bring the NSC into full play in trying to defuse the ongoing crisis.

The safety commission is in a position to spearhead efforts to contain the crisis under its own disaster-management guidelines.

However, the fact remains that the NSC has limited its involvement in the government's response to the disaster, playing the minimal role defined in the law on its establishment.

The commission's involvement in this respect remains unsatisfactory.

The panel has only offered expert advice when the government ministries and other offices related to the nuclear disaster have requested such assistance.

The NSC should understand its duty is to actively work to end the ongoing emergency.


Public anxiety growing

Little headway is being made in overcoming the nuclear crisis at the Fukushima facility. Residents in other areas hosting nuclear power plants are increasingly apprehensive about the safety of such facilities.

It is feared that the status quo could eventually lead to the suspension of operations at one nuclear power plant after another, a development that would impair the nation's power supply.

Last week, the NSC started reconsidering its nuclear safety guidelines, including its guides for the design of new nuclear power plants.

We feel the panel is mistaken in its priorities.

Under the circumstances, the commission should strive to end the ongoing crisis as soon as possible while also securing the safety of existing nuclear power facilities.

We also find it difficult to understand the motive behind some remarks by NSC Chairman Haruki Madarame.

For example, he has said that "the Economy, Trade and Industry Ministry must be held responsible" for regulating nuclear power plants in operation.
This remark sounds as if he regarded the regulation of nuclear power generation as having nothing to do with him.

Shortly after the nuclear crisis began, the NSC chief told the government a hydrogen explosion would not happen. This caused a delay in the government's response to the series of hydrogen blasts that did in fact take place.

The latest nuclear disaster has dealt a serious blow to public trust in Japan's administration of nuclear safety rules. The regulatory system must be rebuilt.

The NSC must play a central role in improving the safety of nuclear power plants in this country and gaining popular support for its measures to achieve that goal. Failure to do so would mean the nuclear watchdog has lost its raison d'etre.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, June 27, 2011)
(2011年6月27日01時00分  読売新聞)


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