National

Japan to start background checks of nuclear workers in anti-terrorism effort

Kyodo

The nation’s nuclear watchdog decided Wednesday to require background checks for workers at nuclear power plants and other facilities as part of its anti-terrorism measures.

Following recommendations from the International Atomic Energy Agency, the Nuclear Regulation Authority will introduce the measure in late September.

Still, actual implementation is expected to begin next year or later due to necessary regulation changes needed in regards to handling nuclear materials.

It is also unclear how the new measure will be effective in improving security as the operators will conduct the background checks based on information provided by the workers rather than in cooperation with police or other law enforcement authorities.

The regulation will cover employees and subcontractors who enter restricted areas where nuclear materials are kept and those who have access to important information at such facilities.

Under the system, operators will make the workers submit a copy of their resident registry and a written oath stating they have no association with terrorist organizations or crime syndicates. Employees will also be asked where they have traveled overseas, whether they have committed any crimes in the past and whether they have a history of drug addiction.

While such background checks are the norm in other countries’ nuclear industries, Japan had fallen behind due to privacy concerns.

Nuclear plants and facilities in the United States and Europe conduct such background checks in cooperation with the authorities, who check applicants’ criminal records.

Workers at nuclear power plants include employees of utility firms, plant manufacturers and construction firms.

At Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc.’s Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear plant in Niigata Prefecture, for example, 6,700 people were working there as of August even though its seven reactors are shuttered.