Nuclear Regulation Authority officially decides on Japan’s new safety requirements for reactors

The Nuclear Regulation Authority on Wednesday officially decided on Japan’s new safety requirements for reactors aimed at preventing recurrences of disasters like the one at the Fukushima Daiichi complex in 2011.

The new regulations are expected to take effect on July 8, paving the way for nuclear power plant operators to apply for the NRA’s safety assessment as a step toward resuming the operation of their idled reactors.

While calling the regulations a “culmination” of discussions that have taken place since October last year, NRA commissioners acknowledged that the rules’ application is a more important job for them and vowed to make efforts to further improve them.

Nuclear Regulation Authority Updates Disaster Mitigation Rules

The Nuclear Regulation Authority on Wednesday revised its disaster mitigation guidelines compiled in light of the Fukushima crisis by adding criteria for evacuation and other protective actions against radiation exposure.

According to the revised guidelines, people living within a 5-km radius of a nuclear power plant will be given iodine tablets, which help prevent thyroid cancer, ahead of time so they can promptly take the pills in the event of a fallout crisis.

People living outside the 5-km zone, meanwhile, will be ordered to evacuate if a radiation dose of 500 microsieverts per hour is detected, a tougher criteria than the International Atomic Energy Agency’s benchmark of 1,000 microsieverts.

Read the rest of the story: Nuclear agency updates disaster mitigation rules.

Nuclear Regulation Authority Drafts New Safety Rules

The Nuclear Regulation Authority presented a draft outline Monday of new safety measures to prevent or minimize the consequences of severe atomic plant crises.

Among other features, the NRA said utilities will be required to build a special safety facility housing a secondary control room for reactor operations to protect reactors against natural disasters and acts of terrorism, such as the intentional crashing of an aircraft into a nuclear plant.

The new safety standards are expected to come into force in July, replacing the current ones, which the triple-meltdown disaster that erupted in March 2011 at the Fukushima No. 1 plant proved were insufficient.

Read the rest of the story: NRA drafts tightened nuke plant safety rules.

Iodine pills not approved as radiation protection drug in Japan

Iodine has been used in the treatment of thyroid diseases, chronic bronchitis and other diseases. But in Japan, its use as protection from radiation exposure has still not been approved and this will cause further delay in its distribution to residents near nuclear plants.

The Nuclear Regulation Authority has included the distribution of iodine in its preventative measures, but since they have not been able to obtain yet the approval from the Pharmaceutical Affairs Law, the local governments still cannot distribute the drug or even include it in their regional disaster management plans that are due for submission by March 2013. This will also add to the delay in restarting of the idle nuclear plants, since one condition for the approval of the restarting is that there is more than adequate protection for residents living in the area.

The protective effects of potassium iodide has been recognized internationally, as seen after the Chernobyl nuclear accident in the former Soviet Union. But in Japan, it has been very rarely used before the Fukushima nuclear meltdown in 2011. No pharmaceutical company has filed for approval of the drug for nuclear radiation protection. As such, victims cannot claim compensation from the state if they experience side effects from the drugs.

The NRA will hold consultations with the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry officials to obtain additional legal approval to be able to provide the drug in advance to residents within a five-mile radius of a nuclear plant, which may be expanded later on.

Nuclear Industry Gave Millions in Grants to Japans Safety Experts

Four out of the six members on Japanese government panel drafting new nuclear safety regulations each received between three million and 27 million yen in payments, donations and grants from entities in the atomic energy industry in the last three to four years, the Nuclear Regulation Authority said.

But after disclosing the data on Friday, the new nuclear watchdog’s secretariat said all four members “were selected in line with regulations, and there should thus be no problem” over their appointment.

According to the Japan Times, critics, however, cited the risk of their judgment being swayed by power companies and other nuclear-related bodies, and of the possibility that new safety regulations could be watered down.

The NRA requires experts involved in drafting safety standards for nuclear plants and other matters to disclose their remuneration and other payments received, but it has no provision to disqualify them if previously withheld information comes to light, the report said.

Read the rest of the story: Nuclear industry gave millions in grants to Japans safety experts.