NRA secretariat must halt collusion

The Nuclear Regulation Authority’s secretariat on Feb. 1 disciplined a high-ranking official for leaking information to a nuclear power plant operator. But the inadequate nature of the disciplinary measure indicates that the secretariat does not realize the grave nature of the incident.

In the past, collusive relations existed between Japan’s nuclear regulation organizations and the power industry. For example, the then Nuclear Safety Commission in 1992 asked the power industry to think up reasons for not taking measures to cope with the loss of all power sources at a nuclear power plant and adopted a composition written by Tokyo Electric Power Co.

The latest incident shows that such collusive relations have not been eradicated. A full investigation should be launched.

The NRA secretariat reprimanded Mr. Tetsuo Nayuki, the No. 3 official of the secretariat, and seconded him to the secretariat of the education and science minister as part of his punishment for giving Mr. Taiki Ichimura, managing director of Japan Atomic Power Co., and other officials of the company a draft assessment report on geologic faults running beneath the power company’s Tsuruga nuclear plant in Fukui Prefecture on Jan 22. Mr. Nayuki is originally from the education and science ministry.

Six days later, on Jan. 28, the members of a panel appointed by the NRA in principle agreed to adopt the draft, which says that there is a strong possibility that a fault running beneath the plant’s No. 2 reactor is active.

It is known that Mr. Nayuki met officials of the company five times in and after December. Despite this, NRA head Mr. Shunichi Tanaka said that the relationship between Mr. Nayuki and the officials of Japan Atomic Power Co. cannot be characterized as collusion. In announcing the disciplinary measure against Mr. Nayuki, the NRA secretariat’s No. 2 official Mr. Hideka Morimoto did not offer any apology for what he did.

At the very least, it is a grave lapse in judgement for the No. 3 official of the NRA secretariat to meet officials of a power company so often within four months of the NRA’s Sept. 19 establishment.

The decision to second Mr. Nayuki to the secretariat of the education and science minister is also problematic. The NRA secretariat was established by integrating the now-defunct Nuclear and Industrial Regulation Agency of the trade and industry ministry, the NSC and the radiation monitoring section of the education and science ministry.

When the NRA secretariat started with some 450 workers and officials, a rule was introduced to not send them back to organizations that they had earlier belonged to help ensure the independence of the NRA secretariat from these organizations. Seconding Mr. Nayuki to a ministry where he previously worked is a clear violation of this rule. After Mr. Nayuki was disciplined, it was learned that he held at least 30 meetings with executives of power companies, violating the NRA’s internal rules. To regain the public’s trust, the NRA must take strict steps to prevent the recurrence of such incidents.