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The FEPC against prevention

March 27, 2012


Industry body opposed boosting nuke disaster prevention steps before Fukushima crisis




The Federation of Electric Power Companies of Japan (FEPC) had told the government's Nuclear Safety Commission (NSC) in writing that it would oppose any plans to step up preventative measures against nuclear accidents shortly before the outbreak on March 11, 2011, of the crisis at the Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant, according to documents obtained by the Mainichi through information disclosure laws.

The FEPC, which groups 10 power companies in the country, said in written documents addressed to the NSC that it would stand against the government body's move to strengthen the country's preventative measures against nuclear accidents because such plans would give the impression that nuclear power was dangerous and affect the regions hosting nuclear power plants accordingly, as well as push up costs for such measures. The revelation shows that the utility firms in the country downplayed preventative measures against nuclear accidents.

The NSC, tasked with drawing up the country's guidelines on nuclear disaster prevention, started its preparations to introduce new guidelines in March 2006 after the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) defined international standards for preventative measures against major nuclear accidents in 2002. However, the NSC had shelved its plan for tougher preventative measures once because the government's Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency (NISA) repeatedly opposed the move, saying, "It would amplify public fears about nuclear power."

But many foreign countries started to introduce preventative measures against nuclear accidents, and therefore the NSC expressed its intention to consider introducing tougher preventative measures again in its "basic plans for near-term measures" released in December 2010.

Responding to the NSC's move, the FEPC sent the written documents to the NSC on Jan. 13 and Feb. 3, 2011, saying that it had "estimated in its own right" the possible reaction from local governments in the event that the international standards were adopted.

On the impact of the introduction of a Precautionary Action Zone (PAZ) designated within a radius of about five kilometers from a troubled nuclear power plant, the FEPC said, "It could cause land prices to fall and reduce the number of tourists." It also opposed the idea of expanding Emergency Planning Zones (EPZ) within a radius of eight to 10 kilometers from a troubled nuclear power plant to designate an Urgent Protective Action Planning Zone (UPZ) within a radius of about 30 kilometers from the nuclear plant, saying, "Local governments that fall within the zone will demand subsidies."

Shortly after that, the crisis broke out at the Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant. The NSC worked out new guidelines based on international standards on March 22 this year. The government set aside 8.97 billion yen for "subsidies for emergency safety measures" in the state budget for fiscal 2012, three times more than the outlay for the previous year. The NSC said, "Before the accident, the plant operators that were supposed to be regulated were allowed to intervene in policy decision-making."

The FEPC, on the other hand, said, "It was part of our cooperation in introducing standards."

It had already been found out that NISA also opposed the introduction of tougher disaster prevention measures in 2006.

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