Japan’s Parliament Agrees on Bill Establishing New Nuclear Regulatory Agency

Japan's parliament

The Japan Times reports that on Thursday, June 14, Japan’s ruling party, the Democratic Party of Japan, reached an agreement with the Liberal Democratic Party and the New Komeito on provisions of a bill establishing a new regulatory agency. 

The government had planned to install the new regulatory agency April 1, 2012, the start of the Japanese fiscal year, but disagreement on the structure of the organization caused the effort to stall.

Among the significant provisions agreed to in the bill is a 40-year limit for operating nuclear plants, though the law would allow the new regulatory agency to determine whether this 40-year limit can be extended. The bill also includes an agreement to establish a “nuclear disaster conference” that directs ministers to develop emergency preparedness procedures for responding to nuclear accidents and disasters.

The new regulatory agency will replace the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency (NISA), which came under criticism after the Fukushima accident for being too closely tied to the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI), whose role includes promoting nuclear power. The new agency will have complete independence from the central government.

Similar to the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Agency, the new regulatory agency will have appointed commissioners that must be approved by the Diet. Officials that serve on the commission’s secretariat will be prevented from going back to their former offices.