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9 July, 2015

Group of Concerned LDP Lawmakers Proposes Reconsideration of 40-Year Rule for Reactor Lifetime

On July 7, a caucus of members of the Japanese Diet promoting the stable supply of electricity issued a proposal that includes a call to reconsider the appropriateness of the current limit of the operating lifetimes of nuclear power plants to 40 years in principle.

Mr. Hiroyuki Hosoda

The caucus, consisting of Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) members supporting and promoting nuclear power, is headed by Diet member Hiroyuki Hosoda.

Their proposal calls for the Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA) to clarify the scientific basis for applying the same 40-year standard to every NPP, regardless of its reactor type.

According to the law, the NRA’s organization shall be reviewed within a period of three years after its inauguration (i.e., by September 2016). The caucus will submit its proposal to an LDP project team that is working on proposals to the government, asking the team to reflect its concerns.

The proposal also argues that even NPPs above definite active faults should not automatically be decommissioned. Regarding seismic shaking and movements at fault gaps, the proposal says that safety can be ensured through engineering, including the reinforcement of equipment and facilities. In other words, that represents an objection to the thinking evidenced by the new regulatory standards.

Rather than depending on the judgment of one commissioner out of five who has expertise in earthquakes and tsunami, the caucus seeks the creation of a new special research committee to be the venue for deliberations in case the views of the NRA diverge with that of a particular power company.

Currently, to maintain its independence, the NRA is an external bureau of the Ministry of the Environment. However, the proposal also suggests transferring the NRA to the jurisdiction of the Cabinet Office, which is responsible for disaster prevention.

In order to secure specialists and experts in the secretariat of the NRA, the proposal calls for affirmatively appointing former employees of power companies and plant vendors.

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