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2013年3月 1日 (金)

原発政策提言 規制委の独善に注文がついた

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Mar. 1, 2013)
Nuclear Regulation Authority should heed its critics
原発政策提言 規制委の独善に注文がついた(2月28日付・読売社説)

A panel on energy and nuclear policies, mainly comprising experts from the private sector, recently submitted an emergency proposal to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

In the proposal, the panel urged the government to restart idled nuclear power plants once their safety is confirmed and draw up a new, responsible nuclear policy. The panel, chaired by former education minister Akito Arima, pressed the government to "avoid turning its back on nuclear power and tackle the issue squarely."
We believe the panel's proposal is reasonable.

Due to the prolonged suspension of nuclear power plants, the nation has become more dependent on thermal power generation, which has led to a surge in imports of liquefied natural gas used as fuel for thermal power generators. In light of the resultant rise in costs, electric companies have accelerated moves to raise their rates, which will likely have a huge impact on industries and people's daily lives.

Abe has pledged to fundamentally review the zero nuclear policy touted by previous administrations led by the Democratic Party of Japan. We ask the prime minister to take the proposals into account and speed up discussions on working out a new energy policy.


Fukushima basis of N-policy

The emergency proposal made three suggestions to the government: Rebuild damaged areas of Fukushima Prefecture, implement safety regulations for nuclear power based on global standards, and establish a proper energy policy.

About 160,000 people have been forced to evacuate from their homes due to the nuclear accident at Tokyo Electric Power Co.'s Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant. It was sensible for the panel to put its top priority on rebuilding the affected areas, stressing that this should be the foundation of the government's energy and nuclear policies.

The panel also asked the government to build an international institute in Fukushima Prefecture tasked with developing technology and fostering international cooperation on decommissioning nuclear reactors. We believe the government should promptly take action to make this idea a reality.

It is noteworthy that the panel decided to criticize the Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA), which is tasked with implementing nuclear safety measures, in its emergency proposal. "There are various concerns" about the authority, the panel said.

"[The NRA] is pursuing a goal of reducing the risks [of operating nuclear power plants] to zero, which is impossible to achieve," the report said.
It also said the agency has not yet achieved its goal of becoming a forum for an examination of nuclear safety that takes full advantage of the wisdom of the nation's top experts and uses the maximum amount of information.


NRA becoming self-righteous

We agree that there are many problems with the management of the authority.

The authority is now working on drawing up new safety standards on nuclear power plants and studying whether nuclear power plants have active faults beneath them. However, it has excluded experts who were involved in nuclear regulation before the Fukushima crisis from its activities.

When the authority conducted a study on faults running under Japan Atomic Power Co.'s Tsuruga power plant in Fukui Prefecture, it concluded that a crush zone underneath the power plant's reactor is an active fault at a meeting of experts chosen in a biased manner. The authority did not even give Japan Atomic Power a chance to refute the NRA's findings. It is reasonable for the panel to urge the authority to "exchange opinions with [nuclear power plant] operators in an open manner."

Kunihiko Shimazaki, acting NRA chairman, said he plans to ask experts recommended by related academic societies to examine the authority's assessments of the faults under nuclear power plants. However, we believe its examinations will remain problematic unless the authority stops excluding experts who have opinions differing from those of the authority.

The emergency proposal also asked the authority to clarify the rules and timetable on restarting idled nuclear power plants.

NRA Chairman Shunichi Tanaka said when deciding on the restart of nuclear power plants, the authority will not take the costs to power companies into account. However, we believe it is impossible to conduct nuclear regulation without considering the efficiency and economic performance of nuclear power plants.

The regulation authority's political independence is guaranteed, but that does not mean it should become self-righteous.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Feb. 28, 2013)
(2013年2月28日02時04分  読売新聞)


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