Japan finalises new nuclear safety regulations

Nuclear power plants plan to reopen by the end of year

Japanese nuclear regulators have finally agreed on a new set of safety guidelines, signalling a start to a slow re-opening of the country’s nuclear reactors.

Since the disaster in March 2011 when an earthquake caused a series of nuclear meltdowns at the Fukushima nuclear power plant, all but two of Japan’s 50 nuclear reactors have been shut down in response to public fears over safety.

The Nuclear Regulation Authority’s new regulations will take effect on July 8, when plants can apply for inspection. This process will take several months, will plants expected to reopen later this year or early 2014.

The refreshed safety standards will mean that operators of nuclear plants will have to check for active earthquake faults and build new tsunami defences. Remote secondary control rooms must also be constructed so that plants can be safely shut down if the main site cannot be reached.

The body that has outlined the new rules is itself a new creation, after the previous regulator was disbanded following public outrage over lax safety standards and cronyism. Before Fukushima safety requirements were also the sole responsibility of plant operators, and were not legally binding.

Despite the improvements, the new plans have still attracted criticism, including the claim that loopholes will allow some operators to wait five years before installing mandated equipment.

In a poll conducted by the daily newspaper Asahi Shimbun 58% of respondents said they opposed restarting the country’s power plants, whilst only 28% approved.

Critics of the new scheme also pointed to the fact that four utilities companies running six power plants would be filing for safety checks even though NHK, Japan’s public television network, reported that they had not upgraded their tsunami measures or built secondary control centers.

Despite being one of the world’s most earthquake prone countries, Japan has also been one of the most inclined to nuclear power. Prior to 2011 one third of the country’s energy was generated by nuclear means, and although the current government  predecessors had committed to phasing out Japan’s use of nuclear power by 2040 there were no mentions of these plans amongst the new regulations.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Project Implementation Executive

£18000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Chiropractic Assistant

£16500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Chiropractic Assistant is needed in a ...

Recruitment Genius: Digital Account Executive - Midlands

£18000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Web Developer

£28000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company provides coaching ...

Day In a Page

NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

The wars that come back to haunt us

David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders
Heston Blumenthal to cook up a spice odyssey for British astronaut manning the International Space Station

UK's Major Tum to blast off on a spice odyssey

Nothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
John Harrison's 'longitude' clock sets new record - 300 years on

‘Longitude’ clock sets new record - 300 years on

Greenwich horologists celebrate as it keeps to within a second of real time over a 100-day test
Fears in the US of being outgunned in the vital propaganda wars by Russia, China - and even Isis - have prompted a rethink on overseas broadcasters

Let the propaganda wars begin - again

'Accurate, objective, comprehensive': that was Voice of America's creed, but now its masters want it to promote US policy, reports Rupert Cornwell
Why Japan's incredible long-distance runners will never win the London Marathon

Japan's incredible long-distance runners

Every year, Japanese long-distance runners post some of the world's fastest times – yet, come next weekend, not a single elite competitor from the country will be at the London Marathon
Why does Tom Drury remain the greatest writer you've never heard of?

Tom Drury: The quiet American

His debut was considered one of the finest novels of the past 50 years, and he is every bit the equal of his contemporaries, Jonathan Franzen, Dave Eggers and David Foster Wallace
You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

Dave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's dishes highlight the delicate essence of fresh cheeses

Bill Granger cooks with fresh cheeses

More delicate on the palate, milder, fresh cheeses can also be kinder to the waistline
Aston Villa vs Liverpool: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful,' says veteran Shay Given

Shay Given: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful'

The Villa keeper has been overlooked for a long time and has unhappy memories of the national stadium – but he is savouring his chance to play at Wembley
Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own - Michael Calvin

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own