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New head of nuclear regulator vows to maintain ‘transparency’.

Shinsuke Yamanaka, new chairman of the Nuclear Regulation Authority, addresses the media during his inaugural news conference in Tokyo on Sept. 26.

September 27, 2022

The new chairman of the Nuclear Regulation Authority vowed to maintain “independence and transparency” as the government agency performs its watchdog role over Japan’s nuclear industry. 

Shinsuke Yamanaka, 66, an expert on nuclear material science, took the helm of the NRA on Sept. 26.

“I will never forget the Fukushima nuclear disaster at Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant,” he said at a news conference. “With this resolve, I remain committed to the NRA’s policy to regulate the nuclear industry while steadfastly maintaining independence and transparency.”

The appointment of Yamanaka, who has been an NRA commissioner since 2017, comes as the administration of Prime Minister Fumio Kishida seeks a return to more reliance on nuclear energy. It is the first such move since the 2011 triple meltdown at the Fukushima plant.

The administration is considering building nuclear plants and new reactors to replace aged ones, something the industry ministry and nuclear industry have pushed for years.

Yamanaka pledged that the NRA will continue to remain neutral.

“The NRA should sincerely carry out its duties while keeping in mind that the safety of nuclear energy is never a guarantee,” he said. 

On the NRA’s prolonged examinations of reactors to assess if they meet the new reactor safety regulations, Yamanaka said his agency will be open to measures to help speed the process.

“Our basic stance is to conduct strict inspections, but we are willing to take measures to expedite the regulation procedures and improve communications between us and nuclear plant operators,” he said. 

Japan hosted 54 commercial reactors before the Fukushima nuclear accident. Of these, 27 reactor operators had applied for restarts under the more stringent reactor regulations that went into force in 2013. Only 10 have gone back online so far, however, as the NRA examinations continue.

Yamanaka also cited three things he wants to focus on in the coming years: strengthening the NRA’s ability to disseminate information, having a field-oriented approach and developing human resources.

Before joining the NRA, he did fuel safety research related to severe nuclear reactor accident at Osaka University.

Yamanaka’s term will run until September 2027. He replaced Toyoshi Fuketa, who finished his term as the second chairman of the NRA, which was established in 2012.

The same day, Tomoyuki Sugiyama, who specializes in reactor safety, joined the NRA as one of four commissioners.

Sugiyama had researched reactor safety at the Japan Atomic Energy Agency’s Nuclear Safety Research Center.

https://www.asahi.com/ajw/articles/14728584

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October 1, 2022 - Posted by | Japan | ,

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