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2012年6月 2日 (土)

原子力規制組織 緊急時には首相指示が要る

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Jun. 1, 2012)
PM needs right to command during nuclear crises
原子力規制組織 緊急時には首相指示が要る(5月31日付・読売社説)

What is the appropriate form of an administrative body in charge of regulating nuclear power? Both the ruling and opposition parties must rack their brains to establish a system capable of promptly responding to emergencies.

Diet deliberations on creating an institution in charge of nuclear regulations have finally begun in the House of Representatives. The government has submitted a bill to establish the "nuclear regulatory agency," which would be an external organ of the Environment Ministry, while the Liberal Democratic Party and New Komeito have proposed a bill to set up the "nuclear regulatory committee"--an institution more independent from the administration than the government's plan.

The establishment of an institution that would replace the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency (NISA) of the Economy, Trade and Industry Ministry, has been delayed for a long time--the government initially planned to set it up on April 1.

Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda said, "It is the nation's urgent task to establish [new nuclear] regulatory systems and develop disaster prevention measures--there should be no more delays." This remark is difficult to dispute.

The government and the ruling coalition parties have expressed their willingness to accept the essential parts of the LDP-Komeito plan. The government likely concluded that under the divided Diet, in which the opposition parties hold a majority in the House of Councillors, it is necessary to secure the cooperation of opposition parties to quickly reorganize the nation's administrative framework on nuclear regulations.


LDP-Komeito plan has flaws

However, the LDP-Komeito plan has a number of flaws. According to the plan, the nuclear regulatory committee will comprise five experts. Similar to the Fair Trade Commission, it will not be subject to orders of the prime minister and other government offices.
The committee will shoulder the responsibility of regulating nuclear power without outside interference.

The LDP has criticized NISA for "lacking independence and paying little attention to safety [of nuclear power plants]." The party said the government should not repeat the same mistake of establishing an institution incapable of preventing serious accidents from happening, such as the crisis at Tokyo Electric Power Co.'s Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.

However, there is not a second to lose in the event of a disaster. The nuclear regulatory committee's decision-making process will be based in principle on committee members' consultations, so it is unclear whether the committee will be able to make quick decisions in an emergency.

The LDP and Komeito have not prepared concrete rules for the nuclear regulatory committee during emergencies, planning to let the committee decide such rules. We must say their plan is lacking an important piece.

In addition, the appointments of committee members need to be approved by the Diet. If members are chosen through political compromise, there is no guarantee they will be the right people for the job.


Don't let committee decide all

Another problem with the LDP-Komeito plan lies in the way it would change the government's current system during emergencies.
According to the plan, the nuclear regulatory committee would be in charge of measures related to the control of nuclear reactors during crises, while the evacuation of residents and the dispatch of Self-Defense Forces would be managed by the nuclear emergency response headquarters led by the prime minister.

In this fashion, the roles of the prime minister and the nuclear regulatory committee would be strictly divided under the plan, and the current rules enabling the prime minister to dictate to electric power companies during crises would be abolished.

Noda responded to the proposals by stressing the importance of the prime minister having command authority "as a last resort in crisis management." We believe this is a reasonable concern.

Goshi Hosono, the nuclear disaster management minister, said, "We have to think who should be responsible for deciding the fate of the nation."

Excessive interventions at electric power companies, such as the actions of former Prime Minister Naoto Kan toward TEPCO during the Fukushima crisis, undoubtedly should be ruled out. However, it is also unjustifiable to let the nuclear regulatory committee's experts decide all important matters regarding nuclear reactors.

Some lawmakers of the LDP and Komeito have expressed sympathy with the government's points. We urge the ruling and opposition parties to make mutual concessions to establish an effective regulatory body so as to take advantage of the lessons of the unprecedented nuclear crisis.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, May 31, 2012)
(2012年5月31日01時36分  読売新聞)


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