IRAN | Japan’s nuclear watchdog caught in major scandal

Posted on July 30, 2011

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Many have criticized the Japanese government’s response to the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear crisis, wondering why a nation that had 54 nuclear reactors and derived 30% of its electrical power from them, seems to have never even conceived of the possibility of a catastrophic nuclear accident.

But as Shoichi Takahashi, a ruling party lawmaker with an interest in crisis management reminds us, the term “government” itself refers to many things.

The term “NISA” refers to the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency, the nuclear watchdog based in Japan’s Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry.

It is this government organization NISA that is now embroiled in a high-voltage scandal.

It has emerged that NISA asked many of Japan’s regional power companies to manipulate public forums on nuclear energy to make it appear that there was more public support than was in fact the case.

In other words, Japan’s nuclear watchdog functioned more as a cheerleader for the expansion of nuclear power, and betrayed its fundamental mandate to focus on safety issues.

Accusations of involvement have even hit NISA’s main public spokesman.

The controversy has reached all the way to Prime Minister Naoto Kan, who has been in a struggle against bureaucratic elements in the administrative apparatus that still wish to promote nuclear power in Japan.

The prime minister has also repeated his pledge to turn Japan into a nation that does not rely on nuclear power, and now he says that his Cabinet basically agrees with him.

So while analysts doubt Prime Minister Kan’s ability to carry through his policies, it is certain that he has stirred up a debate that will not soon subside.

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Posted in: IRAN