2 Octobre 2012
The Nuclear Energy Library, a facility that offered ordinary residents access to information on nuclear power, has been abolished since its jurisdiction was transferred from the former Nuclear Safety Commission to the newly formed nuclear regulatory agency, it has been learned.
There are no signs that the library will reopen, and the fate of roughly 40,000 files in the library that the public can no longer access is up in the air.
The nuclear regulatory agency was formed with the goal of increasing transparency in nuclear power administration, but the library's closure has sparked criticism that the efforts to release information have only deteriorated under the agency.
The closed library, covering an area of about 600 square meters, is located in a private building in Tokyo's Kasumigaseki district close to the former Nuclear Safety Commission. It offered access to copies of application documents and safety screening reports that are required when constructing and operating nuclear power plants, in addition to the minutes of government meetings. After the outbreak of the Fukushima nuclear disaster, about 100 people reportedly used the library each day.
The library was set up in 1997, in the wake of criticism over the way information was released following a sodium leak at Japan's Monju fast-breeder reactor in 1995 and the subsequent cover-up of a video taken after the accident. The facility contains many hard copies of documents that can't be viewed online, and when it was open visitors were able to view and copy the data.
However, when the operations of the now defunct Nuclear Safety Commission were transferred to the nuclear regulatory agency, the secretariat for the new Nuclear Regulation Authority, the library was abolished as of Sept. 14. No replacement facility has been arranged in the private building housing the newly established nuclear regulatory agency in Tokyo's Roppongi district, and most of the files remain in the library's Kasumigaseki office.
When questioned about the abolishment of the library, a representative of the agency's general affairs section told the Mainichi, "The organization has changed and I haven't heard the background to the decision." The representative said it had not yet been decided whether budget funds would be allocated to keep the library in operation.
Kenji Sumita, a professor emeritus at Osaka University and former acting head of the Nuclear Safety Commission, criticized the library's closure.
"An access point for ordinary residents to obtain information about nuclear power should be maintained. The regulatory agency's response is simply shabby, and to restore confidence in nuclear power it should quickly be reopened," he said.
The agency has instructed workers to forbid reporters from entering its office, and it has restricted the scope of the information it releases, barring reporters for political party newspapers from news conferences.
Yukiko Miki, director of nonprofit organization Information Clearinghouse Japan, voiced concerns about the situation.
"It's unforgivable for the level of information release to fall below the level seen before the Fukushima nuclear accident," she said.