parliament passes new nuclear safety laws
Reuters (Tokyo), December 13, 1999
Japan's parliament passed a set of bills on Monday aimed at strengthening
nuclear safety measures following criticisms of the government for a
slow response to the country's worst-ever nuclear accident in September.
The Upper House
of parliament unanimously passed the legislation aimed at giving the
central government a more responsible role during nuclear accidents.
The more powerful Lower House passed the bills last month.
has come under fire for lax supervision and a slow response to the accident
at a uranium processing plant in Tokaimura which exposed about 70 people
Under the new law,
the prime minister would declare a state of ``nuclear emergency" and
immediately set up a crisis management centre to order evacuations and
other safety measures during a major nuclear disaster.
governments had the primary responsibility of instructing residents
on safety measures. They have long demanded the central government play
a more active role.
The new legislation
requires nuclear facility operators to immediately report any accidents
and the prime minister could order the dispatch of Japan's Self-Defence
Forces if necessary.
The laws also require
periodic inspections of nuclear fuel facilities, previously required
only for nuclear power plants.
The Tokaimura accident,
which occured when workers ignored proper safety procedures and triggered
a nuclear chain reaction, or criticality, was ranked four out of seven
on an international scale of nuclear accidents.
Tatsuya Murakami had said he welcomed the new bills but what was more
important was whether the new legislation would be effective in practice.
``A concern of
mine is...can it (the legislation) really lay the foundation for better
and swifter initial responses by the government during emergencies,"
Murakami said in November.
Reuters news service