Officials drafting new regulations raked in millions

Nuke industry funded NRA’s safety experts

Kyodo

Four of the six members on a government panel drafting new nuclear safety regulations each received between ¥3 million and over ¥27 million in payments, donations and grants from entities in the atomic energy industry in the last three to four years, the Nuclear Regulation Authority said.

But after disclosing the data Friday, the new nuclear watchdog’s secretariat said all four members “were selected in line with regulations, and there should thus be no problem” over their appointment.

Critics, however, cited the risk of their judgment being swayed by power companies and other nuclear-related bodies, and of the possibility that new safety regulations could be watered down.

The NRA requires experts involved in drafting safety standards for nuclear plants and other matters to disclose their remuneration and other payments received, but it has no provision to disqualify them if previously withheld information comes to light.

Of the four members, Akira Yamaguchi, a professor at Osaka University’s graduate school, and Akio Yamamoto, a Nagoya University professor, each received payments in excess of ¥500,000 annually from entities including Nuclear Engineering Ltd., an affiliate of Kansai Electric Power Co.

In addition, Yamamoto received more than ¥27 million in donations and research grants from Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd., which manufactures equipment for nuclear reactors, while Yamaguchi raked in a total of ¥10.1 million from Japan Atomic Power Co., a constructor and operator of atomic plants, and from other nuclear-related parties.

Meanwhile, University of Tsukuba professor Yutaka Abe was paid a combined ¥5 million by a variety of bodies, including a research laboratory affiliated with Tokyo Electric Power Co., and Tomoyuki Sugiyama, a researcher at the state-run Japan Atomic Energy Agency, was awarded roughly ¥3 million in total from Nuclear Fuel Industries Ltd.

The only two panel members who did not receive any funds from entities in the nuclear power industry are Norio Watanabe, a researcher at the Japan Atomic Energy Agency, and Meiji University associate professor Tadahiro Katsuta.

Tepco eyes Fukushima HQ

Tokyo Electric Power Co. plans to set up a regional head office in Fukushima Prefecture to oversee local reconstruction, decontamination and compensation payments related to the nuclear disaster, sources said Saturday.

The utility will include the plan to establish an office staffed by more than 4,000 employees in its medium-term management plan that could be announced as early as this week, the sources said.

The head of the envisioned office, to be appointed from Tepco’s ranks, will be granted the same status as that of a vice president at the firm’s headquarters in Tokyo.

By beefing up its presence in Fukushima, the utility hopes to demonstrate its commitment to make all-out efforts to deal with the aftermath of the nuclear crisis, the sources said.

Discontent has been mounting in Fukushima, as municipalities and residents feel Tepco is neglecting to take their opinions into account when making decisions on rebuilding projects, cleaning up radioactive fallout and compensating victims of the disaster, as all of these issues are handled by staff at its Tokyo headquarters.

In addition, the number of specialists assigned to decontamination work will be tripled from the current 100, and all of the utility’s 38,000 workers will be sent to Fukushima Prefecture two or three times a year to assist local communities, including by hauling furniture and cleaning residents’ homes.