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What's with the promised nuclear safety agency ?

April 20, 2012


Political tension should not hamper talks on nuclear agency: Hosono



TOKYO (Kyodo) -- Nuclear disaster minister Goshi Hosono on Friday expressed hope that parliamentary deliberations on a government bill to launch Japan's new nuclear safety agency would not be further delayed amid rising political tension over blunders by two other ministers.

"We have been waiting for the discussions with the (main opposition) Liberal Democratic Party since January over the new regulatory body, but deliberations have not yet started," Hosono, who doubles as environment minister, told a press conference.

"I think talks on nuclear regulations and safety should be discussed properly without being influenced by the political situation," he added.

On Friday, the opposition-controlled House of Councillors approved censure motions against Defense Minister Naoki Tanaka, who has been criticized for his handling of a string of security issues, and transport minister Takeshi Maeda, accused of trying to meddle in a recent local election.

The LDP, which submitted the motions on Wednesday along with other opposition parties, says it will continue to boycott all parliamentary deliberations unless the two ministers are replaced immediately. The motions are non-binding.

Amid growing political confrontation, the LDP and its ally, the New Komeito party, submitted a bill on Friday that aims to create an independent nuclear regulatory commission as a counterproposal to the government's bill.

Both entities are the same in that they would be placed under the Environment Ministry, but the opposition parties seek to make the commission sufficiently free from political influence by legally guaranteeing its independence in line with Article 3 of the National Government Organization Act.

Under the counterproposal, the commission will be an umbrella organization of a new nuclear regulatory agency, and would take control of the agency's personnel and budget matters.

The government has decided to review its nuclear regulations after the current setup of the nuclear safety agency under the Economy, Trade and Industry Ministry, which has promoted atomic power, came under fire following the accident at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, triggered by the earthquake and tsunami on March 11 last year.

The government hoped to separate the current agency from the industry ministry and create a new nuclear regulatory agency on April 1, but failed to do so amid objections from opposition parties.

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