25 Mars 2013
March 24, 2013
Criticism has arisen over a decision by the secretariat to the Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA) to charge a fee to view nuclear power-related documents that were previously free, in a move that goes against the agency's policy of information transparency.
The change occurred in September last year when the agency was created and inherited the documents -- around 40,000 binders of files such as application forms for the construction and operation of nuclear plants and safety evaluation forms -- from a nuclear power resource center that it replaced. The center had made the documents available for browsing by the public, but under the NRA secretariat they are now kept in storage and have to be specifically requested to be seen.
According to the NRA secretariat's general affairs department, the Tokyo building the agency resides in lacks the facilities to accept visitors wanting to see the documents, and in order to allow them to be read, it followed procedures under the Freedom of Information Act that designated the resources as "administrative documents," which cost money to view. Those wanting to view the documents have to write their name and address on a request form and pay a 300-yen fee. In addition to users having to specify the documents they want, it can take up to 30 days until they are able to see them.
At the time of its founding, the agency decided on a policy of transparency, saying it would "voluntarily release information without waiting for requests from citizens."
An official of the agency's general affairs department said, "The charging of fees was due to the absence of facilities for visitors and was unavoidable, but we apologize. We would like to quickly set up the necessary facilities, but there is no prospect for it."
Yukiko Miki, head director of an NPO that seeks information transparency, said, "The NRA secretariat's actions and its stated policy do not match. They should quickly secure the budget and administrative means to publically release the documents."