National

NRA adds 384 staff from defunct agency

Kyodo

The Nuclear Regulation Authority on Monday held an initiation ceremony for 384 staff joining from the now-defunct Japan Nuclear Energy Safety Organization who will bring their technical expertise to the body.

JNES was abolished Saturday and absorbed by the NRA, which was set up in the wake of the Fukushima No. 1 power plant disaster in 2011 to replace its discredited predecessor. The move expands the staff at the new watchdog to around 1,000.

NRA Chairman Shunichi Tanaka said he has “high expectations” for the engineers, especially after the nuclear crisis taught the country the importance of expertise among regulators to strictly monitor nuclear safety.

“We have learned through the Fukushima No. 1 accident that regulators’ lack of expertise led them to be captured” by the nuclear industry, Tanaka said, referring to a phrase used in a report on the nuclear accident.

Masashi Hirano, a 62-year-old former JNES official, told reporters afterward that he will work hard to improve the NRA’s technical capabilities.

The NRA is led by five commissioners and has a secretariat under it. The integration of the JNES into the secretariat is expected to help the NRA handle its huge workload, including safety assessments for nuclear power plants and the supervision of Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s cleanup at the stricken Fukushima plant.

Rebuilding slow: mayors

Sendai KYODO

More than half of the 42 mayors of northeastern cities, towns and villages damaged by the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami describe Tohoku’s reconstruction as slow or stalled, a Kyodo News survey said Sunday.

In the survey, conducted in February ahead of the third anniversary of the disasters that triggered the Fukushima nuclear crisis, 22 mayors said the region’s recovery is behind schedule and 17 said it is proceeding as planned. None said the work was ahead of schedule.

The chiefs of the radiation-tainted towns of Namie and Futaba in Fukushima Prefecture said no progress was being made at all on reconstruction, even though all their residents have fled to avoid the radiation spewed by the crippled Fukushima No. 1 power plant.

In Iwate and Miyagi, municipality heads said the rebuilding of homes and infrastructure including roads, railway and port facilities has been slow.

Those in Fukushima cited delays in decontamination, compensation and work related to the ongoing crisis at the plant.

Of the 42 municipality chiefs in the three prefectures covered by the survey, 40 said they think the memory of the calamity has faded among many people.

Many mayors are concerned public attention is increasingly shifting from Tohoku’s plight to the Tokyo Olympics in 2020.

The death toll from March 2011 stood at 15,884 as of Feb. 10, with 2,636 still unaccounted for, the National Police Agency.

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