Nuclear Safety Panel Identifies Areas of Concern
On Saturday, the committee charged with investigating the disaster at the Fukushima power stations opened a public forum in Tokyo, inviting the insight of international experts in the nuclear field. The experts responded with a wide range of concerns, citing the ever-diminishing public trust in the government, lack of preparation on Tepco’s part that led to plant vulnerability, and the general mishandling of the post-disaster situation by both parties.
This line of criticism follows closely after remarks by Haruki Madarame, head of a prominent panel of nuclear safety advisors to the government. Madarame attacked lax regulations and a fundamentally flawed system, claiming that the complacency of officials had resulted in a “blindness” to potential dangers.
Tepco had in actuality been in the planning stage for reviewing the disaster preparedness of its plants. A mere four days before the March 11 disaster, Tepco presented a briefing to NISA that compiled recent studies about tusnami risks to, for example, the Daiichi plant in Fukushima. However, Tepco identified a reassessment of these risks as a “plan for the future,” looking as far ahead as October of 2011.
The “Investigation Committee on the Accident at the Fukushima Nuclear Power Stations of Tokyo Electric Power Company” (the full title of the aforementioned committee) was formed in June 2011. It released an interim report in December 2011, and expects to release a final report summer 2012.
You can follow the progress of the committee at the English-language website.
Osaka Mayor Rejects Referendum
The Osaka Governor-turned-Mayor Toru Hashimoto is yet again making waves and generating headlines. Hashimoto, who has been on a full-throttle crusade of sorts since taking the Mayoral office in November 2011, struck perhaps his first sour note with his constituents by rejecting a petition to hold a referendum on atomic energy use in the region.
Specifically, the 55,000 Osaka residents who signed the petition sought to vote directly on a simple yes or no question: whether or not Kansai Electric Power Company, the regional energy provider, ought to be allowed to continue to operate nuclear plants. The Osaka Mayor claims that to hold such a vote would be “redundant” and will be addressed at a later time.
Hashimoto did in fact run on a platform denouncing Japan’s reliance on nuclear energy and has promised to pursue the issue. He is most well-known as the head of his own 100-member party, Osaka Ishin no Kai (One Osaka), which proposes tomerge local and prefectural governments into one system.
Earlier this month, Osaka Ishin no Kai released a draft of 91 proposals to include in a platform for the next House of Representatives election. These proposals, titled “Senchu Hassaku” in reference to those that drove the Meiji Restoration, have been termed radical and were received with equal parts amazement and bemusement. Included is a call for a direct election of the Prime Minister, who is currently designated by Diet members and formally appointed by the Emperor.
The Osaka Ishin no Kai website (Japanese-language only): http://www.oneosaka.jp/.