March 29, 2018
Q and A from Toyoshi Fuketa, the Chairman of Japans Nuclear Regulatory Agency (NRA) in the Foreign Correspondence Club of Japan on the 29th March 2018
The moderator began by stating that there would be no speech from Toyoshi Fuketa and they would move straight into the Q and A session.
Concerning the issue of the build up of the tritium laced decontaminated water, the NRA has held the view that only releasing it into the ocean was the only viable solution.
Should people be worried about returning to live in areas around the plant?
He replied that people should not consider any health risks in doing so…
(NOTE from Shaun McGee This issue is being debated still in Japan – https://europeannewsweekly.wordpress.com/2016/12/27/campaign-to-stop-bad-nuclear-health-practice-in-fukushima-concerning-thyroid-cancer-epidemic/ and https://europeannewsweekly.wordpress.com/2016/03/18/shocking-health-effects-in-fukushima-nuclear-workers-found-under-the-official-radiation-dose-limits/ )
… limited numbers of people have returned but with few families with children doing so. The problem of infrastructure within these areas means that there are little in the way of schools, employment and that the ease of living there is difficult. He went onto state that was no health risk in the decontaminated areas.
Concerning the time that “complete” decommissioning would take, the moderator mentioned a few decades or even 100 years and the response was stated that this was an “ambiguous definition” that was “difficult to answer” for instance:
– A totally cleared area returned fully to nature
– An industrial area with certain areas sealed from the public.
The moderator said that now we know the earthquake was the actual cause of the disaster and not the Tsunami so what would happen if there was another damaging earthquake at the site and what would be the safety response? Toyoshi Fuketa responded that the earthquake did not trigger the meltdowns. The stored water on the site would be problematic but any contamination issues would not effect the surrounding areas and therefore there would be no reason for evacuation. The moderator mentioned after the answer that a Parliamentary committee had designated the Earthquake as the actual trigger but got no response to that. The next question quickly followed.
The issue of the Monshu nuclear reactor and the nuclear processing fuel cycle that has largely failed was mentioned and the questioned asked whether the continuation of this programme despite being a costly failure might be because of the needs of the military research and development?
Toyoshi Fuketa Said that the NRA concentrates on safety issues and with the help of the IAEA is involved in military research and development oversight.
Asked whether Japans nuclear plans for 20 to 22 percent of future energy being supplied by nuclear being realistic … said that the NRA has no opinion on this question but later in the Q and A … confessed a personal position that he would hope that Japan would develop alternative energies and an energy saving policies instead (his own specialisation being engineering and not nuclear specific engineering).
In the IAEA`s 2016 report mentioning 4 points there was a critique of the NRA;
1/ Human resources and training
2/ The lack of a self questioning attitude
3/ failure in onsite safety inspections
4/ Japans large threat of natural disasters including volcanoes, earthquakes and Tsunamis being the a threat.
Toyoshi Fuketa said that there was a problem with funding, employment and training in that there was not enough funding available for best practise policies and implementation. Concerning the self questioning attitude the NRA relied on the input from utility companies whist using public forums and platforms, open to the public, for increased scrutiny and transparency. Also, the OECD had input and did reports (Full critiques of OECD report with sources can be found here: https://europeannewsweekly.wordpress.com/2016/08/15/japans-dodgy-deep-geological-nuclear-waste-disposal-hopes-and-fears-2016/ ).
The reason given for the lack of onsite inspections mentioned in the IAEA 2016 report was to look at other countries with different policies using the USA and Switzerlands more safety conscious approach. The NRA wishes to use the USA policies and is in year 2 of a 3 year improvement plan which began in 2017 and that this was being developed with onsite agencies and other bodies.
The issue of Japans proclivity to natural disasters was deemed by Toyoshi Fuketa to be the “most contentious issue in the report. He went onto say “what is adequate protection”?
He said that Press challenges to the official reports were important in this regard and that made the NRA have to offer technical responses to questions raised in public debates but that the NRA would ultimately make its own technical decision on issues.
The next question concerned the different policies utilities have on their policies on safety and working practices and should all nuclear utilities come under one unifying structure (A national merger of the many utilities was mentioned) to simplify the complicated inspection and advice procedures found in Japan. …. said that Japan should develop the US model (or similar) where nominated safety officers at each plant hold monthly meetings (2017 report on the US NRA safety culture can be found here: http://www.ucsusa.org/nuclear-power/whos-responsible-nuclear-power-safety/nrc-safety-culture#.WsOVtZ_OBhE ) to decide best practice on safety and other issues but he didnt mention any plans ongoing to deal with this issue.
The last question was from the moderator who asked if, in his personal opinion, would Japan stop using nuclear energy? Toyoshi Fuketa`s response, after a rather long pause, was to say that he wished for Japan to move further towards renewable energy solutions and to further reduce the consumption of energy. He mentioned that it would be difficult for Japan to completely stop nuclear energy production in the near future as the infrastructure and policies in Japan were not completely ready for zero nuclear energy yet. He finished of this statement by saying that “I am not originally a nuclear engineer but was a structural engineer”