NRA to boost transparency after nuke industry contacts

Kyodo

The Nuclear Regulation Authority said Wednesday it will prohibit its staff from meeting alone with officials of atomic power plant operators even if it is a courtesy visit, to ensure transparency in its dealings with the industry.

The decision was reached after the NRA recently discovered that a senior official of its secretariat had given an undisclosed document to officials of Japan Atomic Power Co. during a meeting at which no other members of the regulatory body attended because it was held under the guise of a “courtesy call.”

The incident has been taken seriously inside the NRA as part of efforts to bring an end to collusion between regulators and plant operators.

The NRA, launched last September after its industry-collusive predecessor was in part blamed for the 2011 Fukushima nuclear crisis, laid the incident to “carelessness” by Tetsuo Nayuki, 54, who was sacked as director general for nuclear regulation policy on Friday, but it also decided to take measures to prevent a recurrence.

The original rules stipulated that, other than in an emergency, the NRA will not allow its staff to meet alone with officials of plant operators when their talks involve the content of regulations. More than two people should be present and a record of the discussion kept, it said.

But meetings for the “exchange of courtesies” have been an exception and NRA spokesman Hideka Morimoto has said the definition of a courtesy call, which he thinks is a visit of just a few minutes, may have been vague to some individuals.

NRA commissioner Kunihiko Shimazaki has criticized the officials of NRA for not viewing it as a problem when Nayuki continued to meet with the Japan Atomic Power officials alone.

Under the new rules, if a meeting between regulators and parties subject to regulations lasts more than five minutes, a brief summary of the contents will be made public, according to the NRA secretariat.

Nayuki met with officials of Japan Atomic Power for 30 minutes on Jan. 22, during which he handed a draft assessment of geological faults running beneath the firm’s Tsuruga complex in Fukui Prefecture, just about a week before the draft was scheduled to be made public by an NRA-appointed panel.

The leaked information is not considered confidential because it was a summary of discussions that had been open to the public.

Japan Atomic Power said its officials met Nayuki eight times, including on Jan. 22, after the NRA panel agreed in December that a fault running underneath a reactor at Tsuruga is probably active, an assessment is unacceptable to the firm because it may be forced to scrap the unit.