Japan Adopts New Law For Nuclear Regulatory Body

Japan's Diet (Parliament) on Wednesday enacted a law to set up an independent nuclear regulatory body by September.

The new law was adopted following widespread criticism after last year's accident at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. Lawmakers have complained that the existing Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency is controlled by the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry, which promotes nuclear power.

The proposed nuclear regulatory commission is to be largely independent of the government and will have control over a nuclear regulatory agency. Appointees to the five-member commission will not to be allowed to return to work at their former Ministries or agencies. The legislation also provides for the setting up of a new Cabinet Office council to study nuclear disaster preparedness, Japanese media reported.

The new law limits the Prime Minister's powers to give orders during emergencies, and tasks the commission with making decisions involving knowledge of reactor technology. It allows the Prime Minister to give instructions only when the commission is too slow in deciding. The commission is to review the current 40-year limit for operating nuclear plants.

The Fukushima plant was wrecked in the massive tsunami unleashed by a powerful earthquake on Japan's north-east on March 11, 2011 which left nearly 20,000 people dead or missing.

Residents in a 20-kilometer radius of the plant, operated by the Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO), were evacuated following radiation leak from the disabled plant.

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