社説:保安院もやらせ 信頼の底が抜けた

(Mainichi Japan) July 30, 2011
Accusations of public opinion manipulation by NISA have damaged trust
社説:保安院もやらせ 信頼の底が抜けた

Revelations that the government's Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency (NISA) may have attempted to manipulate public opinion on nuclear energy have badly damaged the credibility of the nuclear regulator.

It's like the thief you caught red-handed turned out to be a police officer.

Chubu Electric Power Co. and Shikoku Electric Power Co. have said that in the past, NISA asked them to have insiders attend government-sponsored symposia on a "pluthermal" project and only ask panelists non-damaging questions.

If NISA, whose role is to examine the structure and equipment of nuclear power plants and ensure their safety, has in fact attempted to lead public opinion, it is a serious problem.

To restore the public's trust, the government must get to the bottom of this scandal and review the role of NISA.

Leading to these new revelations was the news that Kyushu Electric Power Co. asked insiders and subsidiary companies to send e-mails supporting resumption of halted reactors at its Genkai Nuclear Power Plant in Saga Prefecture to a TV program.

The Economy, Trade and Industry Ministry took the incident seriously and instructed power suppliers to conduct in-house investigations for any more similar problems, which is how the latest case emerged.

The most recent incident has further deepened public distrust in the nuclear power industry and the government regulator, who seem to have paid little heed to public opinion.

The public is divided over nuclear power because of safety concerns, and the pluthermal project -- in which fuel with plutonium mixed in is used in regular reactors -- was controversial.

The NISA organized symposia on the project were supposed to be for sincerely listening to the opinions of residents in areas that were to host the project and make a decision through a democratic process.

If NISA attempted to manipulate public opinion on the project, they have betrayed the public's trust.

In the first place, there is a major problem with the Agency for Natural Resources and Energy, which promotes nuclear power policy, and NISA, which is supposed to pull the brakes on nuclear power when necessary to for safety reasons, coexisting under the umbrella of the Economy, Trade and Industry Ministry, because top-ranking bureaucrats involved in policymaking cycle between the ministry, the agency and NISA every few years.

Under these circumstances, it is difficult for NISA to maintain independence as a nuclear power regulator.

Both electric power companies and the government are under mounting criticism since the crisis at the tsunami-hit Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant, and even nuclear reactors that other plants that have finished regular safety inspections have not been able to be restarted.

These latest revelations have surely only made it more difficult for a resumption of those operations.

Economy, Trade and Industry Minister Banri Kaieda -- who has bitterly criticized Kyushu Electric Power for its e-mail scandal and demanded that its president step down -- has to take this scandal seriously.

He has, of course, announced that the ministry will set up a third-party fact-finding panel to investigate the incident, but the government needs to take all possible measures, including making NISA an independent agency, in order to prevent a recurrence of this scandal and to restore the public's confidence.

毎日新聞 2011年7月30日 2時30分

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