21 Juin 2012
June 21, 2012
TOKYO (Kyodo) -- The House of Councillors on Wednesday passed a bill to create a new nuclear regulatory body that will play a key role in enhancing Japan's nuclear regulations in the wake of last year's Fukushima Daiichi atomic power plant disaster.
Following the passage of the bill, resulting in its enactment, the government is expected to step up its efforts to launch a "nuclear regulatory commission" with a high degree of independence by September, consisting of five members with expertise on such issues as nuclear reactors and earthquakes.
The new regulatory framework is different from what the government had initially expected to create because the ruling and opposition parties engaged in negotiations and crafted a new bill largely based on a proposal from the opposition bloc.
While the commission will be placed under the Environment Ministry, its independence will be guaranteed legally by giving it status akin to the country's antimonopoly watchdog the Japan Fair Trade Commission.
Ensuring the independence of the new body has been an important point amid criticism that the existing nuclear safety agency may have lacked teeth as it is under the umbrella of the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry, a promoter of nuclear power.
The launch of the commission is likely to affect the issue of whether to restart other reactors in addition to the Nos. 3 and 4 units at Kansai Electric Power Co.'s Oi plant, which the government has decided to put back online to cope with power shortage concerns in the summer.