The cabinet on Monday approved plan by the government to set up a new nuclear regulator under the Environment Ministry in the wake of the Fukushima disaster, in a bid to give the watchdog more teeth.
The existing Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency (NISA) has been criticized following the March 11 disaster for failing to police the industry strictly and therefore increasing the risk of safety lapses. NISA is part of the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry, which actively promotes nuclear power and the export of Japanese reactor technology. The new agency, which doesn’t have an official name yet, is expected to be up and running by April.
Prime Minister Naoto Kan has advocated a gradual phasing out of nuclear power in the quake-prone volcanic island nation, which previously used atomic power for about 30% of its energy needs.
More than two-thirds of Japan’s 54 reactors are now offline and undergoing safety checks, with their restarts dependent on approval from host communities, many of which are now deeply skeptical about nuclear safety.
NISA has come under fire for its cozy ties with the industry and the body has attracted additional criticism for seeking to swing popular opinion by planting pro-nuclear questions at public forums.
I'll believe this new agency will actually have more teeth when I see it.