There has been a bit of a shake up at Japan’s nuclear regulator, the NRA. The IAEA issued a report last week with a fairly scathing criticism of the new Japanese nuclear oversight program.
In response Japan said it would double inspection staff and send some to the US for additional training. Currently Japanese inspectors receive two weeks of training, in the US they receive two years of training.
IAEA also expressed concern that the current “improved” NRA system lacked the ability to have free access to nuclear plants and related operations data. They have been at the mercy of the power companies to arbitrarily grant permission to the inspectors. The IAEA likened Japan’s current restart inspections to a choreographed routine with no penalties for non compliance by the power company.
NRA responded that they will change rules to allow inspectors to make snap inspections at plants. This will also require power plant operators to comply with requests for access to the plant and related operations data. None of this would start until 2020, well past the current window for most of the reactor restart inspections.
This new concern for lack of proper oversight came as concerns rose related to the Kyushu earthquakes. The region hosts a number of nuclear plants and has suffered considerable damage close to the epicenter of the quakes. This swarm of earthquakes also uncovered an unknown possible fault at the Mt. Aso volcano near the quake epicenter. Mt. Aso is also considered a specific risk to the three nuclear plants in the region. The faults were found in the caldera of the volcano, researchers are still trying to determine the actual mechanism at play in the event.
The head of Japan’s national broadcast company is in trouble over his comments and edicts to staff related to the Kyushu earthquakes. He insisted that the broadcaster only repeat the official government statements on the earthquake. He went further to tell reporters they could not provide the opinions of experts in any news coverage. Journalism academics called this “suicidal to a news organization” and that the head of NHK does not understand the role of journalism. During the 2011 triple disaster there were many public criticisms of NHK’s coverage being too soft on the government and lacking important safety information the public needed at the time.
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