Monday, June 13, 2016

Former Japanese Nuclear Regulation Authority Chairman Claims Japan Needs to Review Nuclear Plant Screening Methodology

Former Nuclear Regulation Authority boss calls for review of safety screening method JIJI Jun 13, 2016

Japan needs to review its current method for screening nuclear plant safety, seismologist and former senior regulator Kunihiko Shimazaki said in a recent interview.  The current method risks underestimating the magnitude of possible earthquakes that may hit nuclear plants, Shimazaki, former acting chairman of the Nuclear Regulation Authority, said.
This story is important because it points to a lack of consensus within Japan about how to assess nuclear plant safety.

The story has special relevance given there were over 1000 earthquakes in Kyushu in April, raising great concern about efforts to re-start the Sendai nuclear reactor (see my post here:

Nuclear power's popularity has waned significantly in post-Fukushima Japan. Japanese citizens near nuclear power plants have used the court system to challenge efforts by the national government and nuclear industry to resume nuclear power plant operations. For the most part, their efforts have not been successful
Court rejects appeal to halt operations of Sendai reactors April 6, 2016 THE ASAHI SHIMBUN

MIYAZAKI--A high court here rejected an appeal by Kyushu residents seeking to shut down the only two nuclear reactors operating in Japan, ruling that it is impossible to secure absolute safety with nuclear energy.  Presiding Judge Tomoichiro Nishikawa of the Miyazaki branch of the Fukuoka High Court said April 6 that current science and technology standards cannot reach a level of safety in which no radioactive materials are emitted regardless of the severity of the accident at a nuclear plant.

“A judgment has to be made based on the standard of what level of danger a society would be willing to live with,” Nishikawa said.

Japan's political and legal bureaucracies may give judges the authority to make this type of decision, counter to public will.

This may be legally sound, but still morally inconsistent with democratic ideals, including human rights.

Who decides when the potential consequences of a decision are catastrophic?

Japan's former NRA regulator suggests that Japan's technocratic decision-making is not optimal and may overlook potentially catastrophic risks.

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