January 2003

State seeks control of nuclear plants in crisis

The Japan Times Online, January 20, 2003

Original address: http://www.japantimes.co.jp/cgi-bin/getarticle.pl5?nn20030120a5.htm

[Posted 21/01/2003]

The government will propose new legislation giving it the authority to shut down nuclear power plants and other facilities handling dangerous substances in the event of a military attack, it was learned Sunday.
According to sources, these measures and others are being considered for new legislation regarding the protection of civilians if Japan is attacked. Such legislation is to come into force within two years of the enactment of new laws regarding military emergencies.

A package of bills regarding Japan's response to military emergencies was submitted to last year's ordinary Diet session but was not voted on due to criticism that the wording and explanations given by the government regarding the bills were too vague.

Under existing laws, the government can order nuclear reactors to shut down in times of disaster, such as earthquakes. As reactors may become a prime target in a military attack on Japan, the government is considering having them shut down, in addition to increasing security at the sites, as a pre-emptive measure.

According to draft outlines of the proposed legislation for civilian protection, the government will issue a warning when an attack is anticipated. Citizens will then be evacuated through orders by local governments. Orders will also be issued to nuclear power plants and other facilities that handle potentially dangerous substances to suspend operations to ensure safety.

Facilities that may come under the orders include research institutions that handle deadly viruses as well as chemical factories, according to the sources.

The government thus aims to alleviate public concerns about the possibility of dangerous substances being stolen or contaminating the environment, the sources said.

Beginning Monday, the central government will explain the outline of the proposed legislation to local governments and private sector firms providing such vital services as electricity and gas. Opinions and comments from these parties will then be reflected in the drafting of a more detailed guideline, the sources said.

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