The proposal, drafted by Goshi Hosono, minister in charge of the Fukushima nuclear crisis, aims to decouple the promoter of nuclear power, METI, from the agency in charge of regulating it. The lack of such clear organizational separation has been criticized for hindering the government’s response to the ongoing crisis that erupted March 11.
In addition, the Cabinet Office’s Nuclear Safety Commission, which has also been in charge of ensuring nuclear safety, will be turned into an advisory body under the new agency to be set up in April next year, according to the plan.
As consensus has yet to be reached within the government over the plan, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano said at a regular press conference that the proposal provides a springboard for discussions but that no decision has been made on whether or not to proceed in such direction.
“We must consider (options) including carrying out the reorganization in two or three stages,” the top government spokesman said, indicating the possibility of first detaching the nuclear safety watchdog next April and then carrying out other procedures later.
While consolidating nuclear safety regulations, the proposed agency will also take charge of the initial response to any future nuclear accident and investigate it should one occur.
For the environment monitoring that involves multiple government bodies, the envisioned agency will be in charge of planning and liaison.
The Cabinet minister overseeing the agency will become the deputy head of the government’s taskforce on nuclear disaster led by the prime minister, virtually playing the commanding role.
As for the widely criticized personnel exchanges between METI and its nuclear safety agency, bureaucrats taking senior posts at the proposed agency will be prohibited from returning to their original ministry, in a move to prevent vested interests arising.
The plan was drafted amid calls by Prime Minister Naoto Kan and Hosono himself for a drastic revision of the nation’s nuclear regulation system.
The draft favors the establishment of a new government agency over the creation of an independent committee on the grounds that the government should take charge of nuclear safety and regulatory matters.