JAPAN | NISA under fire over hiring of former TEPCO subsidiary worker as nuclear inspector

Posted on August 11, 2011

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JAPAN | MAINICHI | 11 August 2011

The government’s Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency (NISA) said it hired a former employee of a Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO) subsidiary in April as a nuclear inspector and assigned him to the utility’s Fukushima No. 2 Nuclear Power Plant the following month.

NISA explained that it hired him to fill the vacancy after one of its inspectors quit at the end of March.

The practice has called into question NISA’s neutrality as a nuclear power plant regulator.

NISA and TEPCO emphasized that the worker is performing his duties in an appropriate manner.

“He has good knowledge of nuclear power plants, and is performing his duties properly as a member of the regulatory authority,” said NISA Director General Nobuaki Terasaka.

“The inspector is doing a good job while keeping relations between NISA and TEPCO in mind,” said Junichi Matsumoto, deputy head of TEPCO’s nuclear power division.

NISA has stationed about 100 nuclear inspectors at 17 nuclear power stations across the country, with a total of 54 reactors, to see if the plants are operated strictly in accordance with safety regulations. Five are assigned to TEPCO’s Fukushima No. 2 power station.

More than half of these inspectors are former employees of nuclear power plant manufacturers and relevant companies. Some of them are from power suppliers or affiliates.

The inspector who has recently been assigned to the Fukushima No. 2 plant previously worked for a TEPCO affiliate. He was loaned to TEPCO for four years from April 2004 to do maintenance work on turbines of the plant’s reactors.

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