NRA to add three foreign advisers

Kyodo

The Nuclear Regulation Authority decided at a regular meeting Wednesday to appoint three prominent experts from the U.S., Britain and France as external members to solicit their advice.

Richard Meserve, former chairman of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, Andre-Claude Lacoste, ex-head of France’s nuclear safety authority, and the leader of Britain’s nuclear regulator, Mike Weightman, are the three nominees.

NRA members plan to exchange views with the three Dec. 14, as they are slated to visit Japan to attend an International Atomic Energy Agency-sponsored ministerial conference and other related events on nuclear safety.

During Wednesday’s meeting, the members also looked into a problem detected in an inspection of a massive number of devices at the Japan Atomic Energy Agency’s Monju prototype fast-breeder reactor in Tsuruga, Fukui Prefecture.

The agency has admitted skipping necessary procedures in delaying the inspection of 9,679 devices — about one-fourth of the total devices subject to checks — since July 2010. For four of the devices, the agency changed the inspection’s timing without assessing whether the move would affect safety, according to an official of the NRA’s secretariat.

The agency has said there is are no concerns regarding the safety of the Monju reactor, but the NRA’s secretariat believes the delayed inspections are in violation of the law on nuclear power plants.

The Monju reactor achieved criticality in 1994 but was shut down due to a serious accident involving a leak of sodium coolant and a resulting fire the following year, as well as a coverup attempt. It resumed operations in May 2010, but the launch of full operations was again delayed after a device accidentally fell into the reactor’s containment vessel that August.

The prospects of a resumption of operations remain doubtful in light of the Fukushima No. 1 plant meltdowns last year.