Added by Erik West on August 5, 2011
Japan’s Prime Minister Naoto Kan removed three top nuclear energy policy-makers on Thursday, in a move seen by many as an attempt to loosen ties between the nuclear power industry and regulators.
The three officials were removed from Japan’s main nuclear regulatory agency – the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency. The announcement comes almost five months after a magnitude 9.0 earthquake and tsunami left more than 20,000 dead or missing in northern Japan, the site of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. The power plant’s safety systems failed after the twin disasters, leading to the world’s worst radiation leaks since the 1986 nuclear disaster in Ukraine’s Chernobyl.
The agency has been criticized for its role in permitting poor safety standards at the troubled Fukushima power plant, including the plant’s poor defences against the tsunami that was triggered after a deadly earthquake on March 11 2011. The Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency is also suspected of attempting to manipulate public opinion by planting participants in town-hall meetings to speak in favour of nuclear power.
The three officials fired on Thursday are Nobuaki Terasaka, Kazuo Matsunaga, and Tetsuhiro Hosono.
The firings appear to be part of a campaign to overhaul Japanese nuclear oversight which may include the separation of the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency from the Ministry of Trade and Industry, granting the regulatory agency more power by changing its status to a full-fledged governmental agency, and relocating the agency in the environmental industry.
Asahi Shimbun, one of Japan’s largest dailies, warned on Thursday that the removal of the three officials could end up backfiring by creating more confusion and bureaucratic paralysis in the Japan’s energy policy.