The requirements of institutional reform mentioned above are consistent with basically with the design idea of NRA, which was finally established in 2012. However, there are still some doubts about whether this institutional reform can be solutions to the “failures.”
First, we can point to the problem of whether the integration of regulatory bodies can develop an interdisciplinary sensitivity. It is certainly significant to integrate nuclear safety, security, and radiation regulations into a comprehensive regulatory system. In addition, this can be a prerequisite for legislating severe accident management to make radiation regulation a goal of the overall safety regulations and to change the legislative purpose of safety regulations from “(to ensure public safety by) preventing hazards” to “preventing radiation damage to the public.” Moreover, some measures for nuclear safety and nuclear security can overlap considerably, particularly in the thermal management of spent fuels and in the distributed arrangement of emergency diesel generators. Furthermore, broad experience in various aspects of nuclear safety fields can be useful in order for regulatory officials to develop interdisciplinary communication skills.
However, as noted earlier, one of the “failures” revealed by the Fukushima Daiichi accident is the lack of awareness of seismic and tsunami risks. Those risks and volcano risks, which seem to be among the future challenges of nuclear safety, are risks dealt with under different jurisdictions. Thus, attention must be focused on how to develop awareness of issues beyond the jurisdiction of the integrated regulatory authority and how to ensure interdisciplinary communication among such segmented fields.
The second problem, as made clear by the Fukushima Daiichi accident, is the limitation of voluntary safety efforts, and whether it is truly possible for the integrated regulatory body to strengthen the capability of regulatory staff in government nuclear safety regulatory organization. That entails the need for ensuring its capabilities independent of operators.
In the case of the United States, the Navy, which has many nuclear submarines, has played an important role as an excellent source of nuclear professionals other than power companies. In fact, many nuclear experts from the Navy have been employed by the NRC and the secretariat of the Institute of Nuclear Power Operations (INPO), which is a self-regulating organization of nuclear operators. In Japan, it can be said that some research institutes under the former Science and Technology Agency, such as the former Japan Atomic Energy Research Institute (JAERI), have played a role somewhat similar to the U.S. Navy. However, these institutes have had a tendency to downsize their operations as Japanese science and technology policy places more emphasis on research studies that have high possibilities to be applied to meet societal needs.
In Japan, assuring the careers of risk managers who have an interdisciplinary orientation based on various experiences of risk management in different fields, could be the key to ensuring continuous availability of human resources with capabilities in nuclear safety regulation but with sufficient independence from operators in nuclear fields.
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