The administration will effectively accept a plan proposed by opposition parties to set up an independent “nuclear regulatory commission,” lawmakers said following talks between ruling and opposition parties to explore amending a bill to create a new nuclear regulatory agency.
The opposition partners Liberal Democratic Party and New Komeito have proposed creating a five-member commission with legally guaranteed independence in personnel appointments and budgetary matters, giving the body a status akin to the antimonopoly watchdog, the Fair Trade Commission.
The government has been working for months to create a new organization to replace the existing Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency, after the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant disaster last year exposed the agency’s shortcomings and led to the halt of all nuclear reactors in the country amid safety concerns.
Pressure to create a new nuclear regulatory body is particularly strong now because the government is nearing a decision to restart two reactors to cope with looming power shortages this summer.
The ruling and opposition parties are making arrangements to craft a new bill based on their latest talks, seeking its passage during the current Diet session, the lawmakers said Tuesday.
Both the government and the opposition parties seek to create a new regulatory body under the Environment Ministry, separating NISA from the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry, a promoter of nuclear power.
But the opposition parties have proposed that a new nuclear regulatory agency be placed under the control of the nuclear regulatory commission.
While the government has made a compromise to create the commission, the ruling and opposition parties still need to narrow their differences over issues such as whether to retain the prime minister’s right to give instructions to related entities in times of emergency.
Internal DPJ dissent
Some 30 percent of lawmakers from the Democratic Party of Japan have expressed opposition to an administration plan to restart two nuclear reactors.
A letter of opposition signed by 117 DPJ members, including former party leaders Ichiro Ozawa and Yukio Hatoyama, was submitted to Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda on Tuesday.
The move came ahead of a ministerial meeting to decide on the restart of reactors 3 and 4 at the Oi nuclear power station in Fukui Prefecture.