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Beware ! 60,000 potential terrorists in Japanese plants

January 27, 2013

Background checks planned for N-workers

The Nuclear Regulation Authority will strengthen counterterrorism measures at the nation's nuclear facilities and will seek mandatory background checks for workers at such facilities to that end, according to informed sources.

The authority will launch an expert study panel next month tasked with suggesting improvements in security at nuclear facilities.

Under the NRA's plan, people applying to work at nuclear facilities would be required to undergo background checks for such things as criminal records to prevent possible collaboration with terrorists.

Japan is the only developed country with nuclear power plants that has not established a counterterrorism program to protect its nuclear facilities, the sources said.

The NRA plans to prepare a rough draft of its nuclear counterterrorism plans in time for the Nuclear Security Summit to be held in the Netherlands in March next year.

Risks at the nation's nuclear facilities include radiation leaks if they should be attacked and theft of nuclear materials and technology that could be diverted to the production of nuclear weapons.

There are also concerns that employees with access to classified information such as locations of facilities could pose a security risk.

Background checks have been in place for workers at nuclear facilities in Europe and the United States for more than 10 years.

Those checks cover such things as criminal records, debts and alcohol or drug dependence. The checks are carefully analyzed to determine if the applicant's problems could be exploited by terrorists.

The NRA's expert panel plans to discuss concrete measures for the counterterrorism system, including the division of roles between the government and operators of facilities.

In Japan, the government and operators of nuclear facilities have been reluctant to put such a system in place partly out of concerns over invasion of privacy. Presently, applicants only have to produce a driver's license or other specified forms of identification.

The outbreak of the crisis at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant on March 11, 2011, highlighted the dangers of not having a more rigorous system in place when 10 employees working to bring the crisis under control at the plant went missing. [??????]

The International Atomic Energy Agency recommended background checks for nuclear workers in all countries in 1999 and 2011.


Information control needed

By Sho Funakoshi / Yomiuri Shimbun Staff Writer

The Japanese government once considered adopting background checks for employees at nuclear facilities after the 2001 terrorist attacks in the United States. However, the plan was shelved due to fear of criticism that the checks would constitute invasion of privacy.

However, the recent Algeria hostage crisis showed that taking measures to prevent insiders from abetting terrorism is imperative.

The Nuclear Regulation Authority, which is scrutinizing safety standards at nuclear facilities with lessons learned from the nuclear crisis at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant in mind, should urgently close security holes to meet international standards.

However, the NRA faces a difficult task.

According to a survey by the Japan Nuclear Energy Safety Organization, more than 60,000 workers enter radiation control areas near nuclear reactors nationwide every year.

It is essential to make a system that facilitates the collection and storage of background information. In the United States, collected information is digitized into a database for use in subsequent investigations.

It is also critically important to ensure the security of personal information such as criminal records and applicants' debts.

Protecting information against cyberterrorism at public offices is also important, as are measures against use of the information unrelated to terrorism by business operators who may want to justify layoffs or use it for other purposes.

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