In an effort to regain public trust in the nuclear energy industry, 35 companies and research institutions formed an association Thursday that subjects members to safety inspections by competitors. September’s criticality accident at JCO Co.’s uranium processing plant in Ibaraki Prefecture has jeopardized the long-term future of the entire industry and made necessary the formation of the privately run Nuclear Safety Network, organizers said. Technicians from member companies will visit each other’s plants over a period of two years and make suggestions for increased safety, they said. The suggestions are to be made public on the network’s home page beginning fiscal 2000. “The network can’t force a member to follow the suggestions,” said Akira Umezu, director secretary general of the network. “But there is public opinion and pressure from other members, and I think most suggestions will be followed,” he said. This is the first time nuclear fuel processing plants like JCO and Sumitomo Metal Co. as well as manufacturers of nuclear plants will be covered by a peer review system. Power companies are already covered by a similar system under the World Association of Nuclear Operators. It is also the first time companies in different cooperative industrial groups will report to one another, representatives said. But concerning September’s nuclear accident, members were divided on how much information it was willing to make public. “Our network is here to prevent future accidents,” said Noboru Makino, adviser to Mitsubishi Research Institute. “We are not here to investigate the accident.”
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