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Reform of the Japan Atomic Energy Commission: as if Fukushima never happened

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 

Author: Philip White − PhD Candidate, Centre for Asian Studies, University of Adelaide, South Australia. Previously Philip worked with the Citizens' Nuclear Information Center in Tokyo.

NM788.4400 During the 2012 energy policy review process carried out by the previous government (Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ)), it was revealed that for over a decade the Japan Atomic Energy Commission (JAEC) had held secret meetings in parallel with public policy meetings.1 Nuclear critics were not invited to these secret meetings. This situation was exposed after a series of scoops by Mainichi Shimbun in 2012, which described in ever more graphic detail the contents of secret meetings conducted in parallel with the 2012 review process.

The upshot of the secret meetings scandal was that the DPJ Government promised in its September 2012 Innovative Strategy on Energy and the Environment that a review of the Commission would be conducted 'with its abolition and reorganization in mind'.2 The government duly established a review committee, which published a report on 18 December 2012, two days after the national election which the DPJ Government lost.3 After taking office the new government (Liberal Democratic Party - New Komei Party coalition) shelved the report and commenced a new review. The new committee's report was released on 10 December 2013.4

The report recommended that JAEC continue to exist, but in a trimmed down form, with the number of commissioners reduced from five to three. Its most prominent recommendation was that JAEC no longer produce an overarching Framework for Nuclear Energy Policy. This was thought to be adequately covered by the Basic Energy Plan and the Science and Technology Basic Plan. The report recommended that JAEC continue to provide perspectives on radioactive waste treatment and disposal, and on 'peaceful use' and nuclear non-proliferation, but that it no longer have the role of promoting nuclear power. It indicated that legislative amendments could be required, but did not specify what those amendments might be.

If JAEC is to be transformed into a neutral organisation which does not set the overall direction of nuclear energy policy, it would be desirable for amendments to be made to the Atomic Energy Basic Act, in particular to Article 1, which states that the purpose of the Act is 'to encourage the research, development and utilization of nuclear energy', and Article 5(1), which states that the Atomic Energy Commission 'shall plan, deliberate on and determine the matters related to the research, development and utilization of nuclear energy,' but the Atomic Energy Basic Act has not been amended. An amendment to the Atomic Energy Commission Establishment Act passed on 20 June 2014 reduced the number of commissioners to three, but did not address the issue of JAEC neutrality.

The Mainichi Shimbun reported that a Liberal Democratic Party committee had decided that JAEC would be tasked with putting together a nuclear energy policy that would effectively have equivalent status to the 2005 Framework for Nuclear Energy Policy.5 It seems, then, that while JAEC has been weakened, it has averted fundamental reform.

A bizarre proposal was recently made by the Radioactive Waste Working Group suggesting that one role for the reformed JAEC could be as an independent third party body to review the high-level radioactive waste disposal business.6 Even if the Radioactive Waste Working Group sees the new JAEC as independent, it is very unlikely that residents of potential high-level waste disposal sites will. Perhaps this proposal says more than anything about the insensitivity of the current government and the nuclear administration to the feelings of the citizens.

It is as if Fukushima never happened.


1. Kyodo 2012, 'Atomic Energy Commission held undocumented, closed-door meetings for more than a decade', The Japan Times, 9 July 2012.

2. Energy and Environment Council 2012, Innovative Strategy for Energy and the Environment, Government of Japan, 14 September 2012, p.5.

3. Expert Review Committee into the Atomic Energy Commission, 2012, 'Basic thinking regarding the review of the Atomic Energy Commission', National Policy Union, 18 December 2012,

4. Expert Committee to review the form of the Atomic Energy Commission, 2013, Cabinet Secretariat, 10 December 2013,

5. Nakanishi, T, Kano, T & Okuyama, T 2014, 'Atomic Energy Commissioners: Will they resurrect the Framework for Nuclear Energy Policy?', The Mainichi Shimbun, 12 April 2014.

6. Radioactive Waste Working Group, 2014, Radioactive Waste Working Group Interim Report, Advisory Committee for Natural Energy and Resources, May 2014, p.31,

From WISE/NIRS Nuclear Monitor #788, 10 July 2014

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