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
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.