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Japan seeking new, independent, nuclear safety authority

Japan Nuclear Agency May Fall Under New Authority, WSJ, By TOKO SEKIGUCHI, 6 Aug 11, TOKYOJapan’s minister in charge of nuclear safety said Friday that the country’s planned nuclear safety agency may come under the jurisdiction of a different government department from its predecessors, in a move to accelerate its separation from an industry ministry mired in scandals.

“We are discussing the merits and demerits of the new regulatory body falling under the jurisdiction of the cabinet office or the environment ministry,” Goshi Hosono said at a news conference.

He added that the two choices were the only sensible options as administrative bodies that hadn’t actively promoted nuclear energy.

Mr. Hosono’s blueprint proposes transferring the functions of the Nuclear Safety Commission and the Nuclear and Industrial-Safety Agency to a neutral ministry by April 2012.

The move is designed to counter longstanding criticism of the fact that the current regulatory body is housed under the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry, which has for decades also promoted the use of atomic energy.

The proposal comes a day after the METI minister said he plans to remove ministry’s top bureaucrat as well as the heads of the energy agency and the nuclear and industrial safety agency, known as NISA.

The firings and Mr. Hosono’s announcement follow a string of embarrassments for METI, including insider trading allegations and extramarital affairs by senior ministry officials.

The public distrust of the powerful ministry that oversees energy, trade and industry reached new heights when it was revealed that NISA officials had manipulated public opinion toward nuclear energy by pressuring utility companies to pad attendance at government-hosted atomic energy conferences.

Chubu Electric Power Co. admitted last week that NISA had asked it to fill seats at a 2007 symposium and have participants speak in support of nuclear energy.

The government has been fighting accusations of cover-ups since the incident at Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant following the March 11 earthquake and tsunami.

Mr. Hosono said the new agency will be an all-encompassing body that oversees all nuclear issues. Currently, multiple ministries and agencies are in charge of radiation monitoring, atomic energy, nuclear security, and reactor transport…..

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424053111903366504576489750244826260.html?mod=googlenews_wsj

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August 7, 2011 - Posted by | Japan, politics

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