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2014年2月 7日 (金)

原子力委員会 政策調整機能に問題はないか

The Yomiuri Shimbun February 06, 2014
Nuclear energy panel must have sufficient powers to shape policy
原子力委員会 政策調整機能に問題はないか(2月6日付・読売社説)

It is indispensable for the government to have an organization that can oversee the country’s energy policy and coordinate views among government entities.

The government will submit a bill to the current Diet session to reorganize the Atomic Energy Commission, which has been responsible for the utilization and development of nuclear energy.

The bill will be compiled in line with objectives decided by the government’s expert panel late last year. According to an outline of the bill, the number of commissioners will be reduced from five to three. Also, its mandate will be narrowed to such important policy measures as the peaceful use of nuclear power, as well as nonproliferation and disposal of nuclear waste.

However, it is unclear whether the government can smoothly promote nuclear power policy with such an arrangement.

Nuclear power policy must cover a wide variety of matters, including the export of nuclear power reactors, research on safer, next-generation reactors, the disposal of radioactive waste and the cultivation of nuclear experts. Cooperation among relevant ministries and agencies, research institutions and the nuclear industry will be essential.

The commission has been devising the nation’s nuclear policy since 1956, when Japan’s nuclear power development started. However, much of its authority was curbed by the Democratic Party of Japan-led administration after the outbreak of the nuclear crisis at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant operated by Tokyo Electric Power Co. As a result, its importance has considerably declined. It is fair to say that the gist of the bill continues this policy direction.

The administration of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe needs to have a discussion to reconsider the content of the bill to renew the authority of Atomic Energy Commission in a way that is conducive for realizing necessary policy measures.

The mandate of the commission was narrowed down in the gist of the bill, as relevant ministries and agencies are already engaged in their own tasks. For instance, the Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Ministry is in charge of nurturing human resources in the nuclear energy field, while the Economy, Trade and Industry Ministry is studying use of nuclear power within the area of energy policy.

Beef up panel’s authority

We doubt whether such tasks can be efficiently carried out if they are simply left up to each ministry or agency. It is important that the new Atomic Energy Commission be equipped with a mechanism to offer appropriate advice on problems with various policy measures.

Certainly, themes such as the peaceful use of nuclear power and the problem of disposing radioactive waste, both listed as part of the mandate of the panel in the bill’s gist, are important.

Regarding the export of nuclear power plants and technology, which has been led by the government, careful and detailed explanations are necessary at home and abroad from the viewpoint of peaceful use of the power. Close communication with prefectural governments is crucial concerning the issue of waste disposal.

Nuclear power policy has to be shaped not only by the commission but also by the entire government in an integrated manner.

Toward this end, it is necessary to stipulate in the bill that the right to make recommendations will be given to the panel, so the views expressed by the commission will be respected within the government. To conduct discussions on nuclear energy policy from a wide range of aspects, the bill should also stipulate that the commission will have the right to hear reports from relevant ministries and agencies.

It is also important to establish a system to appoint commissioners who can fulfill these roles, as well as secure enough staffers at the panel’s secretariat. We hope the government will consider enabling the panel to extensively utilize expert knowledge, through such measures as inviting researchers to be advisers to the panel.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Feb. 6, 2014)
(2014年2月6日01時16分  読売新聞)


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