Nuclear safety overhaul in Japan to create independent agency

Japan will create a more independent nuclear safety agency in April 2012 and plans to scrap the two organizations currently in charge of nuclear oversight. The moves are part of an overhaul of the nation’s nuclear safety agencies in the wake of the earthquake and tsunami last March which damaged the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear station.

The Financial Times newspaper said the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency (NISA) and the Nuclear Safety Commission are adjuncts of the industry ministry and that ministry officials have ties with electric utilities and nuclear equipment makers. The newspaper said a collusive environment has been highlighted by reports that the ministry and utilities worked together to rig public hearings into nuclear energy.

The government reportedly removed the head of NISA and two other high-ranking industry ministry bureaucrats on August 4. Officials reportedly said the nuclear watchdog agency needed to be separate from the agency that sets energy policy.

The government also confirmed plans not to expand Japan’s nuclear generating capacity and said it would test the country’s 50 remaining reactors.

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