Thursday, August 11, 2011

Japan to Create Nuclear Safety Agency under Ministry of Environment

What would that do? Probably it would make things worse. The Ministry of the Environment is one of the least powerful ministries with hardly any knowledge or expertise in nuclear energy or industry.

Goshi Hosono, PM Kan's assistant cum minister in charge of the Fukushima nuclear accident cum paymaster for the nuclear disaster compensation scheme that will help electric power companies who run nuke plants by capping the compensation, thinks that by putting the Nuclear Safety Agency under the Ministry of the Environment, the influence from, and collusion with, the nuclear industry will be lessened. (Hosono himself is a proponent of nuclear power, by the way.)

Well, what about safety? How would that be promoted, by putting the Agency under a ministry that has near-zero expertise and knowledge in nuclear power?

Remember also that it is the Ministry of the Environment who is very eager to raise the radiation limit of radioactive debris from 8,000 becquerels/kg to 100,000 becquerels/kg so that the debris can be burned at any facility anywhere in Japan and buried.

From Mainichi Shinbun (8/11/2011):


It was decided on August 11 that a new agency, Nuclear Safety Agency (temporary name) will be set up under the Ministry of the Environment. For a very long time, the regulatory agency for nuclear power, the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency, has been under the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry which has promoted nuclear power. That awkward situation of having the regulator and the promoter of nuclear power in the same ministry will be dissolved by moving the agency to the Ministry of the Environment. However, the Ministry of the Environment is one of the smaller ministries, and it is unknown whether the ministry can exert any effective leadership in nuclear regulation.


Upon hearing the decision by the Democratic Party of Japan (the ruling party), officials in the Ministry of the Environment are puzzled - "There are many here who are anti-nuke at heart", "We have hardly any experts in nuclear power". There are 1,258 personnel at the ministry, with the budget of only 200 billion yen [US$2.6 billion]. The Nuclear Safety Agency, which is to be newly created, will be staffed with 500 personnel from the METI's Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency and the Nuclear Safety Commission under the Cabinet Office. There are those who voice concerns: "The Agency will continue to have the "Nuclear Village" mentality. It may take decades for the two organizations to effectively merge. We are afraid the balance of power within the ministry will be disturbed."


The Ministry of the Environment prides itself in "acting as the opposition within the government" (according to senior officials of the ministry) in dealing with problems like pollution. However, it is not in a strong position within the government in terms of personnel and budget, and has often been forced to compromise in negotiation with the other more powerful ministries.


Also, the ministry has hardly any nuclear expert as of now, and they don't have experience in emergency response during a big accident.

The Mainichi article quotes a Tokyo University professor (in government administration) who says the Ministry of the Environment is not really detached from the nuclear power interest groups, because it has promoted the nuclear power as environmentally friendly, clean energy to counter the "global warming".


Lena said...

Then where to put it? Okinawa maybe, where there are no nuclear power plants? Detached from the center of power, and with stubborn activist citizens. Or have it backed by more powerful ministries in charge of protecting peoples´health, Japan´s agriculture and fisheries? Or create som kind of international scheme?

Anonymous said...

Robbie001 sez:

They did the same thing to the Atomic Energy Commission back in mid 1970's The US congress "shuffled and split the AEC deck" after decades of hard hitting expert criticism. Congress divided the AEC into the NRC and the ERDA. The ERDA (later became DOE) was responsible for promoting nuclear power while the NRC was supposed to be responsible for regulating nuclear safety. Unfortunately the NRC was staffed with many of the same morons that ran the reactor safety program for the AEC. Shockingly enough a few years after the nuclear shuffle the Three Mile Island accident happened. A recent examples of NRC cheerleading the industry is its interference in Vermont's efforts to close their troubled plant.

Now friendly corporate neighbor Entergy is challenging Vermont's right to refuse operation and if they lose that case they will sue for lost revenue on their 20 year license extension (and they'll probably win).

If the world nuclear industry was serious about nuclear safety only recognized industry critics would be allowed to staff regulatory agencies and only as long as they remain critical. Nuclear power is only competitive when it is allowed to roll the dice with safety (and our money). If the nuclear industry had to stand on it's own two feet it would fall flat on it's face. In Florida power companies are surcharging people for reactors that are not even built yet and if they never get built the power companies get to keep the money.

I've known people who claim they can drive intoxicated and their justification is that they've never had an accident or been arrested they remind me of the nuclear industry's safety culture.

Antony said...

Actually it can be done. There are the people here (anti-nuke nuclear engineers) who can act as real watchdogs, and there are PLENTY of NGO people who could staff such an independent agency. Just needs someone intelligent to throw some money at it (not all that much, actually) but the problem is that there is no one in Japanese govt circles intelligent enough, is there???

Anonymous said...

Here is an overview of the Failures of the NRC at TMI:

"Because the Nuclear Regulatory Commission continues to publicize false information about the TMI accident, we correct the record once again. The NRC’s erroneous statements are listed in the red text which follows."

Anonymous said...


"Japan to Create Nuclear Safety Agency under Ministry of Environment ... What would that do?"

It will help enourmously all... if mirrored from Finland, having such Agency u can see this:

In 1986 at Chernobyl, multiple state agencies had radiation geiger-counters. Overnight, this Nuke Saftety Agency, S T U K , gathered all those devivcs off from the field. Thus no radiation detection, actually finns believe this day that it never came from Chernobyl, all jumped over to sweden. Next time the prog rammed (just like fellow japanese countrymen) finn champignons heard about Chernobyl radiation in the news, was March 2011...

Here u can see how all benefit from such agency. And by all, I mean r0me...

See facty linky



Anonymous said...

@anon 6:42
you did a lot of research and i don't want to criticize you too much, but what you write about Austria/Zwentendorf is simply untrue. i as an eyewitness from austria was involved from 1969 in the collecting of (more than) 50.000 signatures nessecary for the plebiscite that actually happened 1978. my father brought them to chancelor Kreisky 1974, who actually was against nuclear but could not dare to say it. he knew the majority of people were against him, so he told people, he would step back if they vote against Zwentendorf. in the end it was only 30.068 votes more contra than pro nuclear. the plant was actually ready to switch on and there happened no 'crack' or whatever you assume.

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