Citizens group questions impartiality of nuclear safety councils

August 19, 2012

With 48 of Japan's 50 nuclear reactors currently off-line for maintenance or inspections, a citizens' group is questioning the impartiality of some of the members who have served or are serving on governmental councils to assess their safety to be restarted.

Eighteen experts who have served as members of councils set up by prefectural governments to check the safety of nuclear power plants reported receiving a total of about 140 million yen (about $1.8 million) in donations or research funds from nuclear power-related companies or other organizations in fiscal 2010 and 2011, the group said on Aug. 18.

The survey was conducted by the Zenkoku Shimin Ombudsman Renraku Kaigi (Nationwide citizens’ ombudsman liaison conference).

“In order to restart nuclear reactors whose operations are currently suspended, the consent of prefectural governments is vital. The councils play important roles in giving that consent. But we found that their members are not in positions to be impartial,” said lawyer Satoshi Shinkai, who is serving as the head of the secretariat for the ombudsman group.

The ombudsman group conducted the survey of 222 experts who had served or are serving as members of a total of 41 councils of 14 prefectural governments that are hosting or plan to host nuclear power plants.

The councils, some of which are named “Genshiryoku Seisaku Konwakai” (Discussion group on nuclear power policies), have checked or will check the safety of nuclear power plants located in those prefectures.

The group received replies from universities or research institutes of about 100 of the 222 experts.

It found that 18 of the 100 experts had received donations or research funds from nuclear power plant manufacturers or other organizations. The amounts ranged from 30,000 yen to 42.61 million yen per person.

The group is still waiting for replies from other universities, including private ones that are not subject to the information disclosure law. Therefore, the group plans to continue the survey.

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Members of a council set up by the Aomori prefectural government inspect a spent nuclear fuel reprocessing plant in Rokkasho in the prefecture. (Provided by Asahi Broadcasting Aomori Co.)

Members of a council set up by the Aomori prefectural government inspect a spent nuclear fuel reprocessing plant in Rokkasho in the prefecture. (Provided by Asahi Broadcasting Aomori Co.)

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  • Members of a council set up by the Aomori prefectural government inspect a spent nuclear fuel reprocessing plant in Rokkasho in the prefecture. (Provided by Asahi Broadcasting Aomori Co.)

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