All regulations governing nuclear power should be overseen by a single governmental agency, the Atomic Energy Society of Japan proposed May 9.
Currently, responsibility for Japan's nuclear power safety is split among several governmental authorities: the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency (NISA) under the industry ministry; a nuclear power regulation division under the science ministry; and the Nuclear Safety Commission of Japan, a committee authorized to guide the related regulations.
The Atomic Energy Society of Japan proposed that all responsibility for nuclear power regulation be unified under the Nuclear Safety Commission of Japan, which should also be made an independent agency.
The proposal, created from a medium-term perspective, calls for establishing a highly specialized, comprehensive regulation agency similar to the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission.
Such an agency would also integrate the roles of the Japan Nuclear Energy Safety Organization, which inspects and evaluates the safety of nuclear power plants, and the Nuclear Material Control Center, which oversees control of radioactive materials.
The report, compiled in the aftermath of the Great East Japan Earthquake, also raises alarms about the inherent problems arising from the current organizational structure for nuclear-related agencies.
Nuclear power regulator NISA operates under the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry, which also oversees the Agency for Natural Resources and Energy--a group that promotes the nuclear power industry. The two agencies have offices in the same building and often exchange personnel.
Such cozy ties likely led to an unfair balance in favor of nuclear power, some critics charge. Others say the borderline between nuclear regulation and promotion has grown hazy.
The report found the crisis at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant was caused mainly by a failure of the plant's electrical power supply. It noted that safety inspections based on a scenario of total power failure at the plant had never been conducted.
The proposal urged a full review of existing guidelines on nuclear power. It also suggested that authorities consider using independent alternative circulating cooling systems for reactors that do not rely on electricity or other power sources to function.
In addition, the proposal recommended setting up terminals and separate cable infrastructures connecting nuclear plants with hydroelectric or other power sources, building coastal levees and making available mobile generator vehicles and other small power generators for emergency power supply at nuclear power plants.
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