July 22(Friday)

The key question: Who exactly will check the safety?


Yesterday, the structure for checking the safety of nuclear power plants moved forward considerably in concrete terms.  I received a report that the method and the implementation plan for the comprehensive safety assessments (the so-called "stress tests") have been formulated by the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency (NISA).


With regard to the current matter, a great amount of inconvenience has been given to the people concerned, in that "the Prime Minister's instructions regarding the necessity of conducting stress tests were slow in coming."  However, the essence of the matter lies in the issue of "whether or not it is acceptable to have only NISA―which is affiliated with the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry, which has been promoting nuclear power plants―decide the safety standards related to the resumption of nuclear plant operations and on its own pass judgments on adequate achievement of those standards."  While I regret the confusion regarding the arrangements, the issue of the structure is a more important matter.


In the near future, it will be necessary to undertake a fundamental review of safety standards and the system, but until that time we cannot sit idly by.  For the immediate term, we must move forward on the actual safety checks through the involvement of the Nuclear Safety Commission (NSC), an independent entity, in addition to NISA.


As a point of fact, the succession of events leading up to yesterday's decision on the implementation plan has been "receipt of request from NSC (July 6) → submission of a draft plan by NISA → instructions from NSC to strengthen the draft plan → revisions by NISA → NSC confirms the draft plan as appropriate (yesterday)."  While it has not been widely reported, the core matter regarding the issue of "whether or not it is acceptable for NISA to decide matters by itself" will in fact be cleared without waiting for changes to the system.


In addition, publicly disclosing the safety standards in advance has enabled us to take advantage of checks by a wide range of expert eyes.  The next step is to explain this safety assessment implementation plan to the local governments, and after that, the electrical power providers will be instructed to implement the plan.


As for the results of the assessments, which will require one or two months, upon receiving reporting from the electrical power providers, procedures will be followed whereby first NISA, and subsequently here again the NSC, will confirm adequacy in meeting the standards.  Upon receiving the judgment of experts from these multiple institutions, four Cabinet members, including myself, will consult, and after hearing the views of the local community, a final decision will be taken.


While this is a cumbersome process, these procedures are necessary for the safety and the peace of mind of the Japanese people.

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