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Japan Ousts Nuclear Critic in Regulatory Reshuffling

Ardent nuclear supporter to join Nuclear Regulation Authority, replacing critic of speedy nuclear restart

Image on 16 March 2011 of the four damaged reactor buildings at the Fukushima nuclear plant (Photo: Wikimedia / Creative Commons)

Japan's government announced Wednesday it is reshuffling the country's top nuclear regulating body by ousting an outspoken critic of the nuclear industry and replacing him with an ardent supporter of nuclear power.

Critics charge that the move is aimed at fast-tracking Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's plan to restart the country's nuclear reactors.

"The personnel change is a blatant attempt to prompt resumption of nuclear plants," Hajime Matsukubo, spokesman the Citizen's Nuclear Information Centre, told AFP.

The Nuclear Regulation Authority was created in the wake of the 2011 Fukushima meltdown with the stated goal of ensuring that nuclear disasters "never be allowed to happen again."

The Abe administration announced that, when the terms of the five commissioners are up, two will be replaced. The commissioners are appointed by the prime minister and must be approved by Japan's legislature.


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Kunihiko Shimazaki, who is one of the outgoing commissioners, has stoked the ire of Japan's energy industry by resisting efforts to push through a speedy nuclear restart and criticizing companies for inadequate safety measures.

According to Japanese paper The Asahi Shimbun, "An executive with Kyushu Electric Power Co. summed up those sentiments by saying, 'Shimazaki made us suffer.'"

Nuclear engineering professor Satoru Tanaka, who will be joining the commission, has a track record of strongly supporting nuclear energy and previously served as president of the Atomic Energy Society of Japan.

Furthermore, Tanaka previously received research funds and pay from "a nuclear plant manufacturer and a foundation linked to Tokyo Electric Power Co.," which runs the Fukushima plant, The Asahi Shimbun reports.

The reshuffle is largely expected to be a huge boon to the country's nuclear industry, despite ongoing failure to resolve the Fukushima crisis.


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