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Tanaka to head new regulatory authority?

July 20, 2012


Gov't to tap Shunichi Tanaka for new nuclear body chief



TOKYO (Kyodo) -- The government plans to appoint Shunichi Tanaka, an expert of radiation physics and a former member of the country's key panel involved in setting nuclear policies, as the head of the new nuclear regulation authority, sources close to the matter said Friday.

The plan needs to win the approval of the Diet for official nomination but the procedure hit a snag as opposition parties refused to hold a meeting scheduled on Friday morning, during which the government was expected to propose the appointment to the parliament, after the candidate's name was reported by media in advance.

Tanaka, 67, is originally from the city of Fukushima and has engaged in efforts to clean land in Fukushima Prefecture contaminated by massive quantities of radioactive substances leaked due to the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant disaster last year.

Because he is the former vice chairman of the Japan Atomic Energy Commission and has served as the president of the Atomic Energy Society of Japan, an academic society, some may oppose the appointment from the viewpoint that he has been part of the "nuclear power village," a close-knit community of bureaucrats, utilities, and academics with vested interests in promoting atomic power.

The government is also planning to tap four others as members of the new regulatory body -- Kenzo Oshima, former ambassador to the United Nations, Kunihiko Shimazaki, the head of the Coordinating Committee for Earthquake Prediction, Kayoko Nakamura of the Japan Radioisotope Association, and Toyoshi Fuketa of the Japan Atomic Energy Agency.

The government aims to launch the new entity in early September, hoping that the organization will contribute to restoring shattered public confidence in nuclear regulations following the Fukushima nuclear crisis, which resulted in the meltdowns of three reactors at the plant.

To ensure the neutral position of the regulators, the government has set certain qualifications for becoming a member of the new body, such as not admitting people who have worked for nuclear power plant operators or related organizations as employees or executives over the past three years.

The government decided to revamp the current nuclear regulatory setup after the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency came under fire for lacking teeth, as it is under the umbrella of the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry, a promoter of nuclear power.

The new regulatory body will be placed under the Environment Ministry but its independence is supposed to be guaranteed legally.


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