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2011年7月10日 (日)

社説:原発耐性試験 欧州以上に徹底せよ

(Mainichi Japan) July 9, 2011
Proposed nuclear plant 'stress tests' must ensure real safety
社説:原発耐性試験 欧州以上に徹底せよ

The government has decided to conduct "stress tests" to evaluate the safety of all nuclear power facilities across the country.

Though such a procedure should have been carried out much earlier and questions remain about the circumstances that led to the decision, at least it is a step toward confirming the safety of the nation's nuclear power plants.

Ever since the nuclear accident at the Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant, the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency (NISA) of the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) has ordered the implementation of numerous emergency measures but has failed to indicate how the weaknesses of each plant have been overcome.

The stress test that is to be conducted must clarify a number of things, including how to ensure safety of nuclear power plants in the case that an event unanticipated when a nuclear power plant is designed takes place -- as it did at Fukushima.

The tests must also show how much room there is for various security measures to fail before resulting in a serious accident.

The method and execution plan for the test will be drawn up by NISA based on the Nuclear Safety Commission (NSC) of Japan's requirements.

The test's credibility will depend on the method that is employed and the items that it evaluates.

In order to ensure that the test does not serve merely as a formality for nuclear power plants that will be deemed "safe," we hope that NISA will take its time developing the test, and do so with extreme precision.

Naturally, nuclear power plants that are currently stopped for regular checkups must wait until the tests have been conducted before resuming operations.

The European Union already began conducting stress tests that take the Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant accident into account in June.

The criteria for which plants in the E.U. are evaluated include natural disasters such as earthquakes, floods, tornadoes, heavy rainfall, as well as plane crashes and terrorist attacks.

The Japanese stress tests will mostly be focused on how well nuclear power plants will fare in the case of tsunami and earthquakes, but we never know what sort of event might trigger a major nuclear accident.

It would seem strange for the stress test in Japan -- the very country where the latest nuclear crisis is taking place -- to be more lax than the one in the E.U.

We urge that Japan avoid making a stress test that is half-baked; rather, its test should be even more comprehensive than the E.U. test.

In the E.U., national governments assess reports made by power companies, which are then peer-reviewed by teams of experts from other E.U. countries.

In Japan, meanwhile, there has been alarm over the fact that METI, which promotes nuclear power, and NISA, which regulates the nuclear industry, are part of the same organization.

There would be a lack of credibility in the assessment process if NISA were merely to check reports submitted by power companies.

At the very least, it is necessary for NSC to evaluate the test results for each plant from an independent standpoint.

Thus far, NSC has been extremely passive in spite of the strong authority it is given.

In the days to come, the organization must take a more active role in ensuring safety.

At any rate, the government's performance in the face of the ongoing crisis has been pathetic.

Economy, Trade and Industry Minister Banri Kaieda recently announced that the safety of the Genkai Nuclear Power Plant in Saga Prefecture and other plants currently undergoing regular checkups had been confirmed following the implementation of emergency measures.

It initially appeared that Prime Minister Naoto Kan backed the minister's declaration, but he has since reversed his stand, creating conflict between the two individuals.

Even if there is value to the proposed stress tests, the lack of consistency among government officials as exhibited by Kan and Kaieda only leads to the public's distrust toward the government.

Furthermore, the latest blunder has even been interpreted by some as Kan's attempt to hang on to power.

In light of the confusion over stress tests, Kaieda said that their purpose is to offer the public a "sense of assurance" concerning the resumption of the nation's nuclear power plants.

The Japanese people, however, are not seeking mere assurances.

What we seek is for the pending tests to contribute to an assessment of the real safety of our nuclear power plants.

毎日新聞 2011年7月8日 2時32分


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