Head of nuclear regulator warns against revival of safety myth

The head of Japan's nuclear regulator has warned against the revival of a myth about the safety of nuclear power before he retires from the post.

Fuketa Toyoshi, the chairman of the Nuclear Regulation Authority, held his last news conference as NRA chief on Wednesday.

Fuketa became a commissioner of the authority when it was launched in 2012, following the 2011 Fukushima Daiichi nuclear accident. He has served as chairman for five years. His term is to end this month.

Looking back at his 10 years at the NRA, Fuketa said he has maintained a stance against the revival of regulatory capture, or the idea that regulators serve the interests of the nuclear power industry, instead of protecting the safety of the public.

He also said he does not think he can build a foundation that will not change, and that regulatory capture and the safety myth will be revived if people related to nuclear power let their guard down.

The government plans to make maximum use of existing nuclear power plants and to explore the possibility of developing and building next-generation nuclear reactors.

Fuketa said there is no discussion about lowering regulation levels, and that if the government decides to lower them, the use of nuclear power will come to an impasse.

He said the NRA must maintain strict regulations and do what it should.

Fuketa said power companies call for speeding up screening for nuclear plants, but do not object to standards for the screening.

He said utilities may think that raising objections would cause problems in gaining understanding from concerned people in putting reactors back online. He added that one challenge is that candid discussions on the matter have yet to be held.