Ex-NISA boss opposed widening nuke plant emergency response zones

June 07, 2012


The head of the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency fought plans by the Nuclear Safety Commission of Japan to broaden emergency planning zones around nuclear power plants in 2006.

In March, it was learned that Kenkichi Hirose, the NISA director-general at the time, opposed the review of the nuclear emergency response guidelines during an NSC-NISA luncheon in May 2006.

"Why do you want to rock a sleeping baby?" Hirose was cited as asking the NSC commissioners.

The latest revelation came from an internal memorandum of a meeting of senior NISA officials that was held immediately before the May 2006 luncheon. It said one senior official advocated a need to improve the guidelines.

"Japan's nuclear emergency response is far behind international standards," the memo cited the official as saying. "The Law on Special Measures Concerning Nuclear Emergency Preparedness was drawn up in haste after the nuclear accident at JCO Co. (that resulted in two deaths in 1999). I think the law has major flaws."

But Hirose was adamant.

"I think the current (nuclear emergency response) setup should remain in place for at least another 10 years or so," Hirose was quoted as saying. "We should ask (the NSC) to exercise utmost prudence in discussing reviews of the emergency response guidelines."

The memo suggests Hirose's opposition stemmed from concern that relations with local governments that host nuclear plants could sour. "We have to rely on local governments for nuclear emergency response," he was quoted as saying.

Under existing emergency response guidelines, a radius of 8 to 10 kilometers around a nuclear plant constitutes an emergency planning zone.

But the March 2011 disaster at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant demonstrated that the radius needed to be expanded.

After the disaster, the NSC presented a draft for revised guidelines calling for emergency planning zones to be broadened to a 30-km radius.

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Kenkichi Hirose, former director-general of NISA (Asahi Shimbun file photo)

Kenkichi Hirose, former director-general of NISA (Asahi Shimbun file photo)

  • Kenkichi Hirose, former director-general of NISA (Asahi Shimbun file photo)

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