Cabinet OKs new nuke watchdog

Kyodo

The Cabinet approved a plan Monday to set up by next April a new agency in charge of nuclear safety under the Environment Ministry as a key pillar of the country’s basic policy on improving nuclear safety regulation.

The new entity will integrate the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency, the Cabinet Office’s Nuclear Safety Commission, and the radiation and other environmental monitoring functions from the science ministry.

Goshi Hosono, minister in charge of the nuclear crisis, told a news conference after the Cabinet approval that work to prepare for drastic reforms will begin promptly with a preliminary panel to be created as early as within the month.

Eyeing a major overhaul of Japan’s nuclear regulatory framework, Prime Minister Naoto Kan has been calling for the separation of the current Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency from the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry, which promotes the use of atomic energy.

The current setup of the nuclear safety agency under the industry ministry has been criticized for lax government supervision of nuclear facilities, and a slow response to the Fukushima power plant crisis triggered by the devastating March 11 earthquake and tsunami.