8 Juillet 2013
July 8, 2013
New challenge for Japan's nuclear regulators
Japan's nuclear regulators are facing a tough challenge as new safety regulations take effect on Monday.
The new rules make plant operators legally responsible for the first time for taking steps to prevent severe accidents.
The expertise of 80 people charged with examining power companies' applications to restart reactors is on the line.
Most of the examiners were employed by the now-defunct Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency. The former regulator was criticized for its lack of expertise in nuclear plant operations.
Some people even called it "a slave" of the power companies it was meant to supervise.
The current Nuclear Regulation Authority must assess the safety of each reactor under the new regulations. This includes measures taken by operators to prevent severe accidents.
The NRA is also required to explain to the public the review process and its outcomes in plain language that people can understand.
The NRA in May confirmed the existence of an active fault under the No. 2 reactor at the Tsuruga nuclear plant in Fukui Prefecture. The authority concluded the reactor is vulnerable to an earthquake and cannot be allowed to operate.
But local communities complained about a lack of transparency in the way the authority handled the matter.
Experts say the NRA needs to establish a mechanism for hearing public opinion about the review process and responding to questions.