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2014年2月23日 (日)

原発安全審査 独善的な先送りは許されない

The Yomiuri Shimbun February 22, 2014
NRA mustn’t delay reactor estarts by insisting on public hearings
原発安全審査 独善的な先送りは許されない(2月22日付・読売社説)

The Nuclear Regulation Authority must not forget that its mission is to promote safety checks smoothly to facilitate the restart of suspended nuclear reactors.

The NRA has decided to invite public comments and hold public hearings in the final stage of checking the safety of nuclear power stations. It will reportedly seek public opinions on its technical judgments.

NRA Chairman Shunichi Tanaka proposed the plan, but the proposal came too abruptly. We urge the nuclear watchdog to reconsider the decision.

Inviting public comments and holding public hearings are not provided for by law. Regulation authorities organized such events in the past, but they were held mainly to consider the construction of new nuclear power stations. The NRA is conducting safety checks on 10 idled power plants.

Public comments were sought when the new regulation guidelines were worked out last year.

Tanaka says the hearings are designed to fulfill the NRA’s responsibility of giving explanations to society. But this position is dogmatic. In the first place, it is more reasonable for the watchdog to make judgments based on its specialized knowledge and explain the reasons for them in detail to the people.

When it launched safety checks of the 10 plants last July, the NRA said it would likely be able to reach conclusions in about six months.

Of course, it is imperative to fully confirm safety. But the checks have already been delayed considerably, and there are fears that the addition of needless procedures will further delay drawing conclusions on safety.

Furthermore, inviting public comments will require the assignment of personnel to deal with them. Public hearings will reportedly be held upon requests from municipal governments. But it must be noted that more than 100 cities, towns and villages are located within a 30-kilometer radius of the crippled Fukushima nuclear power plant alone, the area designated by the NRA for the application of its guidelines on nuclear disaster countermeasures.

Why now?

Coming at this juncture, the NRA’s decision on public comments and hearings can reasonably be criticized as stalling.

The lengthy suspension of nuclear reactors has been adversely affecting the national economy and people’s livelihoods. With no end in sight to the safety checks, some electric power companies are studying a plan to raise utility rates again.

The NRA came up with a new safety check plan this week. It calls for selecting one or two power stations with fewer safety problems next month from among the 10 plants subject to the ongoing checks and assigning inspectors to the chosen plants on a priority basis to conduct checks. This method would then be used as a model for future checks.

This is an effective method. But if the process is fettered by seeking public comments and holding public hearings, it will not accelerate the pace for safety checks.

The NRA must deal with the utilities sincerely in carrying out checks.

In past meetings with plant operators concerning safety checks, the NRA often pointed out that the data prepared by utilities was insufficient. The utilities were naturally confused by such an NRA response because the watchdog did not present its thinking in concrete terms beforehand.

Emphasizing dialogue is essential in carrying out the checks.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Feb. 22, 2014)
(2014年2月22日01時22分  読売新聞)


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