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Voluntary inspections by nuclear plant operators should be regulated and standards introduced for allowable defects to prevent further coverups of structural faults like the scandal now rocking the industry, the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency said Thursday.

The agency, a unit of the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry, proposed at an open-door meeting of an advisory panel that safety information disclosure be enhanced and penalties imposed for noncompliance.

The agency aims to submit bills to the Diet this fall to revise the Electric Utility Law and the Nuclear Reactor Regulation Law based on the panel’s advice to be presented Tuesday in an interim report.

It is proposing regulations on self-inspections and handling of records following the discovery that Tokyo Electric Power Co. concealed cracks and other defects during its voluntary checks, an agency official said.

The government would scrutinize the inspection methods of utilities and other nuclear plant operators and disclose to the firms its assessments, the official said.

It would also require the operators to retain inspection records and levy penalties if they fail to keep records or falsify them, he said.

Regarding minor defects, the agency would require operators to report damage exceeding criteria to be set later, and it would establish ways to disclose and share such information with the government, operators and equipment manufacturers.

The government’s annual routine facility inspections would be defined as aimed at ensuring safety following the operators’ “voluntary” checks, and inspectors would be allowed to check facilities without advance notice.

The agency plans to introduce “defect standards” to enable operators to determine whether they should make repairs or take other safety measures when they find defects in facilities and equipment.

It would also require operators to carry out “safety assurance” activities and report them to the government as part of their safety regulations. This would enable the government to examine the activities during its own inspections.

For its part, the government would clarify its requirements for permitting repair work at facilities and construction plans, the official said.

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