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NRA should be careful not to take the side of nuke companies

June 14, 2017


Future nuclear watchdog chief faces criticism for calling reactor '40-year rule' too short



A statement by a future commissioner of the Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA) about the heavily debated "40-year rule" for the operation of reactors is facing criticism for being inappropriate.

Osaka University Vice President Shinsuke Yamanaka, who will join the NRA this September, stated at a press conference on June 13, "When you look at examples around the world, I personally think (the 40-year rule) is a little short."

The "40-year rule" was added to the Act on the Regulation of Nuclear Source Material, Nuclear Fuel Material and Reactors following the outbreak of the nuclear disaster in Fukushima in 2011. It puts a 40-year limit on the amount of time a reactor can be operational. However, under the law, with the permission of the NRA, the limit can be extended an additional 20 years as an "exception," and three reactors have already received permission to bypass the rule.

Amidst worries that such exceptions treat the "40-year rule" as a mere formality and compromise safety, Yamanaka is facing criticism for his comment. "As a member of the regulatory body responsible for strictly overseeing the safety of nuclear power plants, a statement that takes the side of electric companies and researchers promoting the use of nuclear power is inappropriate," stated Kyushu University professor Hitoshi Yoshioka.

Yamanaka also stated to the media that "while safety is fundamental, an appropriate sense of speed is also necessary," and that he would like to "vigorously move forward with (his) duties to properly ensure safety, not forgetting the lessons learned during the Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant disaster."

The 61-year-old Yamanaka is a specialist in the research of nuclear fuel material safety. He will fill the position of commissioner previously held by Toyoshi Fuketa for the remaining three years of his term. Fuketa will become the new chairman of the NRA in September when Shunichi Tanaka steps down from the position.


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