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Government tries to duck reactor-restart decisions via The Japan Times

Chief Cabinet Secretary Osamu Fujimura suggested Thursday that the central government does not have the ultimate say, or responsibility, in reactivating nuclear reactors, triggering confusion over who is in charge of making the decision.

At a news conference, Fujimura repeatedly stressed that the new Nuclear Regulation Authority is in charge of assessing the safety of reactors and that power companies are only tasked with explaining reactor restarts to host municipalities and seeking their consent.

But Fujimura refused to clarify the government’s precise role in the process, saying only that once the safety of a reactor has been confirmed by the NRA, it will be brought back online.
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“In terms of giving approval, that duty has shifted from the trade minister and the (now-defunct) Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency to the regulatory committee that is now in charge of authorizing” reactor restarts, Fujimura said, dumping the responsibility squarely on the NRA.

But this view was flatly contradicted by the NRA just a day before, when its new head, Shunichi Tanaka, stated that its responsibility is to scientifically assess the safety of nuclear reactors and that ultimate responsibility to authorize restarts does not lie with the nuclear watchdog.

Restarting reactors “is a major decision that must be made by somebody, and I believe that our safety assessment plays an important role in making that judgement,” Tanaka said. “But to reactivate the reactors, there are various issues to consider, including gaining permission from local residents and municipal officials, and that is beyond the bounds of our authority.”

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