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NRA's position at odds with Gov't policy?

February 15, 2013


Nuclear body's stance on reactor checks not consistent with LDP gov't policy




Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA) Chairman Shunichi Tanaka's stance to strictly judge whether idled nuclear reactors should be reactivated is inconsistent with the atomic power policy of the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) government.

In September last year, then Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda appointed Tanaka as head of the atomic power regulatory body at his own discretion. Noda did not seek the Diet's approval of his appointment while he was in office.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe declared on Dec. 23 last year, before he took office, that he would not replace Tanaka or four other commissioners in the NRA. The appointments were approved by the House of Representatives on Feb. 14 and by the House of Councillors on Feb. 15.

However, Abe's decision has raised questions as to the consistency between the appointments and the Abe administration's decision to fundamentally review the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) administration's goal of eliminating atomic power by the 2030s.

Moreover, whether to resume operations at idled nuclear reactors is closely related to the economic revitalization policy on which the prime minister placed top priority.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told a news conference on Feb. 14 that there is no problem with the appointments of Tanaka and four other NRA commissioners. "The NRA commissioners should draw up safety standards with confidence. The government will decide whether to reactivate nuclear reactors at its own discretion," he said.

Despite a gap in the nuclear power policy between the NRA and the Abe administration, LDP legislators have refrained from openly criticizing Tanaka.

During a meeting of the party's Research Commission on Oil, Resources and Energy on Feb. 4, a junior legislator who previously worked as a bureaucrat at the Economy, Trade and Industry Ministry demanded that the NRA's

commissioners be replaced. However, Taku Yamamoto, chairman of the commission, took no notice of the demand.

"No matter how we replace the commissioners, we would be criticized for being arbitrary. We must retain Mr. Tanaka so that the appointments can be approved by the Diet (because the House of Councillors is controlled by opposition parties)," a top government official said.

However, Tsuyoshi Takagi, who represents Fukui Prefecture that hosts nuclear plants, and some other LDP legislators did not attend a House of Representatives plenary session on Feb. 14 that voted to approve the appointments of the NRA commissioners, highlighting opposition smoldering within the party.

Still, the party had no choice but to tacitly approve such a move. "The party has no intention of taking any action against opponents," said LDP Secretary-General Shigeru Ishiba.

On the contrary, opposition parties praised Tanaka for his stance toward nuclear power. It was only the Japanese Communist Party, People's Life Party and the Social Democratic Party that voted against the appointments in the lower house plenary session.

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