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2013年8月20日 (火)

原子力機構 信頼回復へ組織改革が急務だ

The Yomiuri Shimbun August 20, 2013
JAEA's organizational reform key to regain trust in nuclear energy
原子力機構 信頼回復へ組織改革が急務だ(8月19日付・読売社説)

The nation’s nuclear research headquarters should no longer remain dysfunctional. It is a matter of urgency to rebuild the Japan Atomic Energy Agency to regain public trust.

The Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Ministry has compiled a plan to reform the JAEA, which faces numerous problems—as experts have pointed out—including its stance on ensuring safety in the nuclear energy field.

The agency will work out a time schedule to implement concrete reform plans as early as this autumn, while aiming to impose necessary legal revisions. Drawing up an effective work schedule will test its competence.

The organization plays a central role in the nation’s nuclear energy field, conducting basic and safety research, and developing human resources in the field, in addition to operating the Monju fast-breeder reactor in Tsuruga, Fukui Prefecture.

Discussions on reforming the agency were prompted by faulty maintenance checks of the reactor that were disclosed in November. In May this year, radioactive substances leaked following an incident at a laboratory at the Japan Proton Accelerator Research Complex in Tokai, Ibaraki Prefecture.

Maintenance and inspections are essential elements in ensuring the safety of nuclear power facilities. Containment of radioactive materials is the basic premise.

It is only reasonable, therefore, that the ministry’s reform plan has, first of all, called on all agency employees to keep this premise firmly in mind.

The ministry then hammered out the drastic reforms the agency needs.

The plan divides the agency’s work into four major sections: research and development of the nuclear fuel cycle, including the Monju reactor; dealing with the crisis at Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant; enhancement of nuclear safety; and basic nuclear energy research. Other work will be transferred to other organizations, according to the plan.

Concentrate on key tasks

The agency is a huge organization, with an annual budget of ¥180 billion and 3,900 employees. Concentrating its work on key tasks will help strengthen its governance in these fields.

With regard to the Monju reactor, the ministry says the agency’s mixed tasks of carrying out both research and operation of the reactor may have been responsible for the faulty maintenance checks. The ministry has decided to have the agency concentrate on the operational management of the reactor, which will be tentatively renamed “Monju power station.”

The agency also plans to put a person who has served as head of a power station of an electric power company as an executive in charge of ensuring the reactor’s safety, while research related to the fast-breeder reactor will be assigned to a new organization.

Although about ¥1 trillion has been injected into the fast-breeder reactor, it has long remained idle because of a series of problems. We hope the agency will take full advantage of the organizational reform.

The agency’s responsibilities also have grown further in such areas as carrying out preparations to decommission the crippled reactors at the Fukushima power station. The agency also is expected to improve the safety of other nuclear power plants.

Yet as the government’s nuclear energy policy and nuclear fuel cycle policy remain in disarray, it is uncertain how to consider the Monju reactor in the overall scheme of things, a situation that may hinder rapid reform of the agency.

Some members of the Nuclear Regulation Authority have pointed out that having the agency operate the Monju reactor, while at the same time carrying out safety research undermines the reliability of that research. In discussing the work schedule, the agency should come up with a framework to ensure the independence of safety research.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Aug. 19, 2013)
(2013年8月19日02時06分  読売新聞)


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