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Japan: Law to Establish Nuclear Regulatory Commission

(Aug. 13, 2012) A new law to create an independent Nuclear Regulatory Commission for nuclear plant safety was promulgated on June 27, 2012 (Genshiryoku kisei iinkai secchi ho_] [Nuclear Regulatory Commission Establishment Act], Act No. 47 of 2012). The Nuclear Regulatory Commission will be an external branch of the Environment Ministry. A second new body, the Nuclear Regulatory Agency, will be placed under the jurisdiction of the Cabinet Office. It will serve as the secretariat of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. (Id. art. 27.)

The new Commission will set new safety standards within ten months of its establishment. The standards will be used to determine whether to approve the restarting of nuclear reactors that at present are idle. Although the newly amended law stipulates that the operational period of nuclear reactors is 40 years, with a one-time possible extension of up to 20 years, the new Commission will be allowed to review this rule on a case-by-case basis. (Japan Diet Enacts Bill on New Nuclear Regulator, JIJI PRESS (June 20, 2012) (copy on file with author).)

The government plans to establish the Commission in September 2012. However, it may be difficult to meet this goal because the Diet (Japan's parliament), which would have to approve the selection of Commission members, is busy with other, political issues. (Kisei i jinji, medo tatazu … genpatsu sai kado ni eikyo mo [Regulation Commission Appointments, Unclear Outlook … May Affect Restarting of Nuclear Plants], YOMIURI NEWSPAPER (Aug. 6, 2012) (copy on file with author).)