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ATOMS in JAPAN

3 June, 2015

Council of Local Governments Urges National Government to Make Safety Examinations More Efficient

On May 23, the All Japan Council of Local Governments with Atomic Power Stations held its regular general assembly in Tokyo. The group is chaired by Mayor Takanobu Fuchikami of Tsuruga City (Fukui Prefecture).

Representing areas throughout the country with nuclear power plants, the organization confirmed at the meeting that it would again request the national government and relevant organizations during the current fiscal year (April 2015 to March 2016) to act on such issues as the restoration of areas damaged by the March 2011 nuclear accident, safety regulation, disaster-prevention measures, nuclear energy policy, and measures in support of siting areas.

The assembly included a session for an exchange of opinions with the various ministries and agencies of the government, at which personnel from the Cabinet Office, the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT), the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) and the Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA) answered questions posed by the municipalities.

In that session, the mayors of Mihama, Ohi and Takahama Towns in Fukui Prefecture — each hosting NPPs where compatibility examinations with new regulatory standards are underway — jointly raised doubts about the examination schedule, urging greater efficiency by reconsidering the examination system of the Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA), among other moves.

In addition, Takahama Mayor Yutaka Nose, whose town hosts the Takahama-1 and -2 NPPs — which NRA had begun examining that very day in order to decide whether or not to extend their lifetimes past 40 years — voiced his concerns about the extremely tight examination period for the two reactors. He said that he hoped that “no outrageous judgments” would be made on account of the lack of time.

In response to that, Katsuhiko Ikeda, NRA Secretary-General, tried to assure the mayors by referring to the progress of the examinations, saying that they had been affected by the responses of the operators. He then said that efficiency would be improved by using review reports already formulated. Ikeda continued by saying that joint examination meetings would be held with operators of the same reactor type, while maintaining the effectiveness of the examinations. He also said the NRA would try to strengthen the examination system.

Mayor Masataka Matsuura of Matsue City (Shimane Prefecture) spoke about the submission of a report by the governmental Council of Cultural Affairs to the MEXT minister on May 15 on designating Matsue Castle, located within 10km of the Shimane NPPs, as a “national treasure.” Besides asking the government to further enhance safety and disaster-prevention measures, he also requested it to be more active in dealing with radioactive waste giving the decision at the end of April to decommission Shimane-1.

Matsuura also objected to the NRA’s decision in October 2014 not to use the results of calculations by SPEEDI — the System for Prediction of Environmental Emergency Dose Information, developed in 1985 — as a basis for its judgments on protective measures in emergencies.

In response, NRA Secretary-General Ikeda told him that “It is more dangerous to make decisions on predicted values. Evacuations according to actually-measured values are the normal way of doing things internationally.” He demonstrated his worry that misunderstandings stemming from SPEEDI would take root when undertaking drills.

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