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Flaws in the safety regulations

February 17, 2012


NSC head says system flawed / Nuclear risks ignored, govt regulations lax, Diet inquiry told

The chief of the Cabinet Office's Nuclear Safety Commission has apologized for flaws in the government's nuclear safety regulations, including nuclear power plants' countermeasures against tsunami, at a Diet-sponsored inquiry investigating the Fukushima nuclear crisis.

NSC chairman Haruki Madarame was called as a panel witness Wednesday to address the Fukushima Nuclear Accident Independent Investigation Commission, which was jointly set up by the House of Representatives and the House of Councillors. It is chaired by Kiyoshi Kurokawa, former president of the Science Council of Japan.

Regarding the government's safety regulations on nuclear power plant countermeasures against tsunami and power outages, Madarame said, "I can't help admitting there are flaws. I'd like to apologize for that."

He also said, "It was a mistake that tsunami risks weren't addressed in detail, and that the regulations stipulated, 'There is no need to consider the serious impact of prolonged power loss [at nuclear power plants].'"

The NSC chief said a fundamental review of the government's nuclear safety standards was needed and that the problems were deep-seated.

"While other countries considered [stricter nuclear safety standards], Japan made excuses to avoid them. A system was created in which decision-making was difficult and change was avoided," he said.

"I think this attitude is at the root of various problems," Madarame added.

Wednesday's meet was the first full-scale hearing conducted by the Diet investigation panel. Nobuaki Terasaka, former director general at the Economy, Trade and Industry Ministry's Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency, was also called as a witness to address the panel.

Terasaka admitted safety measures taken by the agency were insufficient. "This accident occurred at a time when there wasn't enough preparation [to cope with possible nuclear accidents]. The agency had problems acting as the [nuclear industry's] regulation body."

The commission's hearings are basically obliged to be open and differ from separate hearings held by a government investigation panel, which are basically closed to the public.

Wednesday's hearing was broadcast on the Internet.



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