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2013年2月 8日 (金)

原子力規制委 組織の運営方法に問題がある

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Feb. 8, 2013)
Nuclear agency should correct operational problems
原子力規制委 組織の運営方法に問題がある(2月7日付・読売社説)

The Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA) has been operating since its launch last year without Diet approval for the government's appointments of its commissioners. This irregular situation will finally come to an end.

The House of Representatives and the House of Councillors have started procedures to retroactively approve the appointments of Chairman Shunichi Tanaka and four other officials. Both chambers aim to vote on the appointments by the end of next week.

"We'll make fair, independent decisions from scientific and technical viewpoints," Tanaka said when he attended a hearing by the lower house's Committee on Rules and Administration on Wednesday.

We hope Tanaka will manage the organization just as he said.

Even after the NRA was launched in September, the Cabinet of then Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda postponed Diet voting on the appointments of its commissioners out of fear that some members of his Democratic Party of Japan would rebel against the party's leadership.

It is natural for the new Cabinet led by Noda's successor, Shinzo Abe, to ask the Diet to give its approval.

The Diet is likely to approve the appointments because both Abe's Liberal Democratic Party and the DPJ have decided to vote for them.


Screening schedule undecided

The NRA presented last month a draft outline of new safety standards, which include countermeasures against severe nuclear accidents. It will seek public opinion and work out details before setting down new rules by July.

The new standards will be used as the basis for determining whether idled nuclear complexes can be reactivated.

However, Tanaka said he "can't specify" a screening schedule for resuming operations of nuclear reactors. Such an attitude fails to present a clear prospect for ensuring the nation's stable supply of electricity.

As NRA operations have tended to be delayed since its launch more than four months ago, we wonder if the organization has systemic problems.

For example, the NRA has failed to separate the roles of its commissioners and advisory experts.

At the hearing, Tanaka said the commissioners will compile the new safety standards "by taking advantage of their respective expertise."

At the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC)--after which the NRA is modeled--commissioners do not carry out day-to-day operations, but are tasked with making judgments on rules compiled by its secretariat or advisory experts, among other matters.


NRA officials play double roles

At the NRA, in contrast, the commissioners also serve as advisory experts. It seems odd that one of the commissioners is obsessed with checking whether active faults run near nuclear facilities.

Even though the NRA plans to set up advisory panels, it has yet to appoint their members. The NRA should establish a system modeled after the NRC to enhance its operational efficiency.

The NRA faces many other issues as well--for example, measures to deal with the aging of nuclear reactors, ways to dispose of radioactive waste and establishing safety standards related to decommissioning some of the reactors at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, the site of the nuclear crisis following the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami.
We will feel anxious if the NRA moves swiftly forward on these issues without changing its current system.

The NRA also should have more robust personnel arrangements. For this purpose, it should change its position of excluding experts previously involved in the nation's nuclear regulation policies, so as to carry out its operations by garnering knowledge from a wider range of people.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Feb. 7, 2013)
(2013年2月7日01時17分  読売新聞)


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