politics

Independence of Japan's nuclear regulator questioned after shakeup

46 Comments
By Mari Saito and Kentaro Hamada

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46 Comments
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Its crooked. It was at the time of 3/11, and will continue to be next year. The one guy speaking up against NRA is getting bullied out. Not an independent member in there, how can it expect to be independent as a body?

12 ( +12 / -0 )

If the reactors are going to be restarted, question one should be: Is there a detailed and ready evacuation plan ready for a 50 km radius for each and every reactor? If the answer is no, then there you have it.

6 ( +6 / -0 )

The commission was set up as an independent agency after Fukushima to replace a regulator seen as too close to the industry and to an energy ministry that promoted atomic power.

The lower house, where Abe has a majority, approved his government’s nomination of Satoru Tanaka, a nuclear engineering professor at the University of Tokyo and a proponent of nuclear power.

Well, obviously, it was never intended to be "independent". If Abe can nominate the members, and they must be approved by the Diet, which his party controls, it was a sham from the beginning. Japan politics is dirty to the core. Voters truly have no say, it is all done for the benefit of Japan Inc.

10 ( +10 / -0 )

That old "bait and switch" works every time.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

Find me a credentialed Nuclear Expert who hasn't received industry or government funding.

That's all there is. If you want money for research, those are your options. Anyone with a PhD will have industry money in their research funding pool along with government money, because no one else funds research. This is especially true in engineering.

If you remove all the people who have received such funding on the grounds that they are somehow "tainted", you're left with a pool of people who simply have strong opinions on the subject.

Might as well turn over the NRA to the comments section at JT.

-2 ( +3 / -5 )

Might as well turn over the NRA to the comments section at JT.

Would certainly be more "independent" than this panel.

5 ( +8 / -3 )

Abe is a ganster

13 ( +15 / -2 )

And much radiation was released on 3/11? That information has never been disclosed but it is enough to make swimming pools in Saitama radioactive!

7 ( +8 / -1 )

And still no stories about the real state of Fukushima released since last December. The press here was already compliant and is now gagged. Abe hand picks commissioners and their "independence" is "questioned". Really? Abe's hand-picked regulators are not entirely independent? Whatever next, rain in Wales? Gun crime in the USA? NHK is the same story.

8 ( +9 / -1 )

So the new "independent" panel who oversees the safety of a seriously dangerous industry that has consistantly proven it's ineptitude year after year is made up of people who have been paid by the same industry they are overseeing. Can't see anything going wrong with this?

4 ( +6 / -2 )

Only now?

0 ( +0 / -0 )

`Independent'? Right...about as independent as the nail that gets hammered down....

2 ( +2 / -0 )

This is Japan! The land of bid-rigging, price-fixing, loop-hole exploiting, brown paper bag political donations and kick backs. Why should anybody be surprised the nuclear regulatory authority consists of hand-picked ringers? TIJ!

6 ( +8 / -2 )

Questioned? There is no question. The NRA is now a nuclear industry mouthpiece. Wait for the next nuclear accident. Maybe on Abe's watch.

5 ( +5 / -0 )

The NRA independence is under scrutiny

In my humble observation and opinion about Japan, the INDEPENDENCE is an oxymoron word in Japanese homogeneous conflict avoiding culture represented by "KIZUNA " or "WA" . The independence demands a role of disagreement and advocacy.

Am I too pessimistic on this issue? You tell me.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

The Fix is in.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

"Kabukilover" .....

The next nuclear accident (or as they prefer to call it: incident) will show the same results. We will hear the same comments: no problem, everything under control, don't worry, can handle. And now with those new pro-nuclear-government experts on board it can only become worse! They just will not learn, or maybe they can't.

2 ( +4 / -2 )

Greed will preempt learning. Only Japan does not have a lot space left for nuclear accidents.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Honesty and integrity are never words I will use to describe the Japanese government, Abe and the nuclear community in Japan.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

Let's try checking and balancing points of view.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

The first restart, at the Sendai reactor on Japan’s island of Kyushu, is expected to be approved in the coming months after the utility resubmitted its application following demands from Shimazaki to upgrade its assumptions over earthquake risk.

And there it is. The only independent chair of the NRA demands the Sendai Reactor get up to the new safety codes, so they just wait until he is on his way out and then just resubmit the same application. No alterations necessary.

2 ( +5 / -3 )

PM Abe "owns" the national mouthpiece, NHK, and now he "owns" the NRA, and come the end of the year he'll also "own" the Secrets Act to hide his dirty laundry.

Any move away from clean, open and transparent government is bad for the nation.

The power utilities "promised" to update the safety of their nuclear reactors, but its a promise which will cost them more than ¥15 trillion, or about one third of the profit locked into the remaining life of the idled reactors.

The old story of the battle between safety and profit.

Most of the utilities haven't updated the safety of their atomic plants, probably just hoping, PM Abe will be forced into turning the nuclear tap back on, regardless of safety standards and he could do it without informing the public, on the grounds of national interest.

The LDP's political partners, like the Komeito are in a weakened position with their energy going into stopping changes to the constitution although seem to remain opposed to the long term use of nuclear energy.

But the LDP are far from being united on that issue too.

6 ( +7 / -1 )

The old story of the battle between safety and profit.

What else is an ultimate goal in humanity? Safety or Profit?

I do not hesitate to predict the ultimate outcome will be delivered by the Japanese Supreme Court soon for profit, unfortunately.

The locomotives (nuke plants) has once started, and nobody want to scrap them. Remember Japanese still honor a "MOTTAINAI" culture and too much money has been invested in nuke energy.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

Find me a credentialed Nuclear Expert who hasn't received industry or government funding.

I think the problem is less that they appointed someone who has received industry funding and more that they are removing the one person, Shimazaki, who was actually independently-minded.

Naturally the panel is going to include a lot of nuclear experts who, given the nature of the field, have close connections to the nuclear energy industry, but it is a mistake to think that the panel should be made up exclusively of such experts. Shimazaki is a geologist, a field that has obvious importance to the safety of reactors. Importantly it is also a field that is seperate from the nuclear sector and means that he doesn`t have those types of connections that raise concerns over the actual impartiality of his views.

A body like this really needs someone like that to play the role of devils advocate and prevent it from being just a closed shop of insiders who more or less rubber-stamp whatever people in the industry (who they may view more as colleagues rather than people they are supposed to actively monitor) suggest. That is the exact complacent mindset of the regulator before 3/11 that contributed to Fukushimas poor preparedness and is exactly what needs to be avoided.

4 ( +5 / -1 )

Senseiman:

They are replacing two of the commissioners.

Shimazaki is being replaced by Akira Ishiwatari, another geologist. He is also generally seen as neutral.

Tanaka will be replacing Oshima, according to the article that ran last month.

And that's where this whole argument about balance and independence falls apart: Oshima is a politician with no science in his background. HE was the government man, and he is being replaced by someone with scientific credentials. And he's being removed.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Has any body seen the film "The dictator" its a funny film with SBC as the main man? if you have not its so funny.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

A foundation spokesman said Tanaka had been paid for judging research grants but declined to give an amount.

Are there no laws regarding transparency and political funding whatsoever in this country? Accountability? Would that make the corruptuon to difficult to maintain? It's easy: if you give, or receive funds from private interests, you should have to be reaponsible and accountable for that money and it should be public information readily available to all.

Man, this is such a corrupt, dirty place it make me feel sick.

0 ( +4 / -4 )

Shimazaki is being replaced by Akira Ishiwatari, another geologist. He is also generally seen as neutral.

Shimazaki is a seismologist. Ishiwatari is a geologist.

The difference is important, because the seismic data is sufficiently unfavourable to prevent plants reopening. If it is not ignored by, say, removing a seismologist from the panel.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

No, if anyone can stop the "Physics" from the next disaster? . I do not have the strength to tell you how you should do it ... with 2-meter tunnel adjacent to one another and having a hole at the top, through which a whole this stuff will affect them, and can be removed .. This method of freezing is crazy dangerous because it can destabilize the ground beneath the reactors .. Every physicist should know that water freezes into ice, its volume increases by 10% .. why iceberg floats .. ai thanks on the road doing spring breakthroughs .. and here such a "breakthrough" they want to do the reactors, which may lead them, the 40-meter deep freeze, to improve the soil by 10%, which is 4 meters .. what happens to them, it is not difficult to foresee * as it has imagination, and not just academic titles ... If someone does not know what it is ice here, please : http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Water .. Besides, this water accumulates on the ice must continue to have some outlet, because it is not a "black hole" ... Help!

http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-23940214

http://forums.autosport.com/topic/74960-new-engine/page-28

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Andrzej Feiks I find it difficult to understand everything you wrote but you make some good points. Ice will expand when they freeze it , if i understood you well , you are worried about the expansion of 10 % of 40 meters ,, but 40 meter deep and 10% of it is expansion in "'vertical "' direction , not horizontal , so basically it is not going to be a 40 meter wide wall ,, it will be much thinner than that , and it can expand uop and down much more before destabilizing the site , unlike if the expansion was in the horizontal direction ,,, which would most certainly damage the buildings ,, BUT ofcourse , the icewall can STILL destabilize the site ,, because first of all there is an underground river constantly feeding water to the site , and once you block it it will have definitely effect on how saturated the site / soil will become ,, never mind the consequences on the coria and the remains of fuel pieces underneath those plants ,, it CAN make everything much worse ,, can cause increase in leakages into the air ,, can cause sinking ,, destabilizing of the buildings ,, and more . Basically nobody knows what the result will be ,,its an open air experiemnt ,, and everybody is invited to take part in it ,, actually it is compulsory ;) ( thats a sarcasstic smiley )

1 ( +1 / -0 )

bonuses within bonuses, bags within bags

1 ( +1 / -0 )

“Opponents said the changes, which were approved by the lower house of the Diet on Tuesday, undermined Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s commitment to an independent watchdog at a time when utilities are pushing to restart their idled reactors.”

There is no surprise here; Abe is not a person who is able keep his words in the first place. In addition, Abe has been constantly trying to muffle the independent voices that deviate from his agenda. For instance, NHK was supposed to be independent broadcast org, but in the reality, it has become the Abe’s mouth piece though his handpicked appointees.

When it comes to nuclear, Japan’s position seems always dubious and sinister. For people who are aware, according to IAEA, Japan failed to report 640 kg of nuclear fuel to international nuclear watchdog agency between 2012 -2013. Can anyone explain why ?

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Nice to have a nuclear energy expert onboard, in addition to a geologist.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Any information will help, Zichi (since we get so little on this from the big 5 media in Japan). Thank you for this info, though

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Iso17020 to learn what is indepence and conflict of interest management. No transparency means no proof. No proof means dependent.

For the safety of all, I support the truth, which also means in both ways.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Zichi I think you are commenting someone with the nick bruinfan but i dont see him/her here ,,,

You are right , this disaster caused and still causing the suffering of many people ,,and they are saking us not to forget them . Imagine you would have to bring your kid for a thyroid scan to find out if he/she had cancer ,, imagine not being able to going back to your home ,, these are their realities they have to live with .

I have a problem with that last statement you made ,, about extensive monitoring ,, what do they mean by that ? Do they mean the monitoring techniques are causing the cancer because they use xray s ? do they mean , they find out more because they are looking for it ? I mean ,, its cancer we are talking about ,, whether you look for it or not ,, you will find out if you got it right ?? What has cnaged and how did that increase the cancer rates ,, it just doesnt sound right to me ,, it sounds more like another excuse from the big business not to pay for the victims of the disaster .

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Prime Abe was elected by the majority of the Japanese People and everyone knew what he want to do!

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Wipeout

Shimazaki is a seismologist. Ishiwatari is a geologist.

They are both geologists. Shimazaki's branch is seismology. Ishiwatari is a volcanologist.

The difference is important, because the seismic data is sufficiently unfavourable to prevent plants reopening. If it is not ignored by, say, removing a seismologist from the panel.

Any difference is small enough to be irrelevant for two reasons:

1) they have both published in each other's fields 2) the position heads a team of experts who are NOT changing

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Spucky Abe was not elected by a majority of the people. Japan is a parliamentary system. He became PM by the collusion of the LDP and New Komeito. There is no direct vote of the Japanese people for the position of Prime Minister. Basically Abe became PM because of Fukushima which is ironic since the LDP caused all the problems by action and inaction that lead to the meltdown.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Prime Abe was elected by the majority of the Japanese People and everyone knew what he want to do!

Spunky, they main reason Juminto came into power was not because the Japanese electorate, (and never-minding the fact about of the parliamentary system), supported their policies. It was in-fact a reflection of their deep frustration and brewing anger with Minshutō who had 3 incompetent prime ministers and did more bickering amongst it's factions, not to mention the antics of let me be prime minister or I will destroy your party which I joined for that very reason~Ichirō Ozawa which couldn't come together on anything during their reign from their land-slide victory in 9/2009 ~ 12/2012. Many Japanese had great hopes after the September 2009 victory and the reason the electorate chose Minshuto in the first place was their dissatisfaction with the decades-old, corruption-infested rule of Juminto.

Secondly, the only person who knew what Abe was going to do was Abe! Sure some of us could read the tea leaves after his short stint as PM in 2007 and but he has been anything but clear and more deceptive in his ambitions and ambiguity is his modus operandi. Take the comfort women issue for example. Does anyone really know what he will finally say or do on the issue except for himself?

All you have to take away from this is, land-slide victory results in Japan are almost always the result of deep frustration and anger and not from excitement and enthusiasm about any one candidate. Minshuto lost power because it didn't deliver and Juminto will lose power for a third time if it does the same!

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Any difference is small enough to be irrelevant for two reasons: 1) they have both published in each other's fields 2) the position heads a team of experts who are NOT changing

Let us suppose - primarily to save time - that you're right. Is it a misinterpretation to say that Shimazaki is being removed because the seismic data he considers an important risk can be overruled if he is replaced by someone else?

There certainly appears to be a problem with that approach by the government. Refusal to honestly face the seismic threat over the last 40 years led directly to the crisis that Japan's nuclear industry finds itself in today. The Fukushima disaster and the 2011 earthquake brought vast amounts of new or previously ignored data into the picture. What we appear to have now is an attempt to move the goalposts so that nuclear can be restarted in this country. First, by getting rid of inconvenient voices in the regulatory body and fudging safety concersn. The next stage would be in setting aside the principle of only allowing reactor restarts with the agreement of the prefectural governor and the local population.

While I am gratified to see the nuclear programme so completely stalled for so long, I imagine this is how the restarts will be hammered through. The actual need to restart just isn't all that strong - except for those who will directly profit by it - and the safety issues are most certainly unresolved. As they will continue to be. The earthquake threat is a permanent presence which the Fukushima disaster has placed beyond a doubt.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Wipeout:

Is it a misinterpretation to say that Shimazaki is being removed because the seismic data he considers an important risk can be overruled if he is replaced by someone else?

Frankly, it's a misrepresentation to say that he is being removed, period.

Until he comments on the reasons, it's pure speculation why he left.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Frankly, it's a misrepresentation to say that he is being removed, period. Until he comments on the reasons, it's pure speculation why he left.

Fair point. After rereading some stories on this, Shimazaki is stepping down because his term is expiring.

However, I think it is no accident - if you'll excuse the pun - that a) neither of the new commissioners is a seismologist, meaning there will be no seismologists on the panel and b) the appointment of a strongly pro-nuclear commissioner is seen as sufficient to enable permission for restarts to be granted. Back to business.

The seismic risks remain, and after Fukushima, we should be paying a lot more attention to them, not stacking the deck so that we get the answers we want.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

I thought the term of office for the NRA commissioners was five years, and new ones could be proposed by the prime minister but have to be agreed by both houses at the National Diet? Maybe I was wrong and the term of office only applies to the chairman of the NRA?

3 ( +4 / -1 )

Wipeout:

However, I think it is no accident - if you'll excuse the pun - that a) neither of the new commissioners is a seismologist, meaning there will be no seismologists on the panel and b) the appointment of a strongly pro-nuclear commissioner is seen as sufficient to enable permission for restarts to be granted. Back to business.

Sorry, but I can't see the issue with this.

There are four commissioners, so it follows that there will be any number of under-represented disciplines. The vulcanologist has published a fair amount of relevant work, so it's not like the issue is going to be forgotten.

For me, the real story here us we've lost the politician and gained an engineer. That's a win in my book.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

I have since read, the term of office is two years for the four commissions, so PM Abe replaced two and kept two?

3 ( +3 / -0 )

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