Power Line
The Federation of Electric Power Companies of Japan Vol.10
December 2000

The Post—JCO Accident Reinforcement of Nuclear Safety Standards

Prime Minister Mori attended the relay-broadcast meeting at Nuclear Disaster Countermeasures Headquarters.MORE THAN A YEAR has passed since the criticality accident at the JCO Tokai Plant, a uranium-processing facility located in Tokai Mura, Ibaraki Prefecture. The accident, which resulted not only in the tragic loss of two workers' lives, but in the radioactive exposure of local residents as well, came as particularly shocking and sobering news. Since then, the government and the nuclear industry, including electric power companies, have instituted a wide-ranging series of disaster-prevention measures to reinforce those already in place.


Stricter Standards for Safety and Disaster Prevention

On July 1, 2000, the revised Law Concerning Regulation of Nuclear Materials, Nuclear Fuel Substances and Nuclear Reactors went into effect in order to strengthen safety standards on a fundamental level. The revised law subjects fabrication facilities, in addition to nuclear power plants, to periodic safety inspections, mandating full compliance with safety regulations by both management and workers; it also requires the posting of permanent safety inspectors to carry out these safety checks. Moreover, the Law on Special Nuclear Disaster Countermeasures was implemented from June 16, 2000 to further augment contingency responses. While the new law entails numerous requirements, it focuses on three key areas:
Ensuring prompt initial response to a disaster. In an emergency, the Prime Minister is empowered to issue a Nuclear Emergency Alert at the earliest available opportunity, then chair a Nuclear Disaster Countermeasures Headquarters.

Enhancing coordination between national and local governments. The law requires that an off-site center be designated and prepared near nuclear facilities. It also requires the conduct of comprehensive disaster prevention drills by national and local authorities in conjunction with those in the nuclear industry and related organizations. Near each nuclear facility, Disaster Prevention Specialists must be assigned, whose tasks include information-gathering activities of countermeasures implemented by the parties concerned and giving instructions to local authorities in a crisis situation.

Clarifying disaster prevention activities by the nuclear utilities. Nuclear utilities are required to formulate and implement clearly defined operational plans to prevent accidents; or, should one occur, then to keep it from worsening. Operators, moreover, are required to post (a) full-time Disaster Prevention Manager(s) at every nuclear facility.

In addition to these measures, the nine Japanese electric utilities, the Japan Atomic Power Company, Inc., the Electric Power Development Co., Ltd. and Japan Nuclear Fuel Ltd. agreed on industry-wide cooperation should a nuclear disaster occur. The agreement allows for the dispatch of experts and the loan of machinery and materials, as well as other necessities in an emergency situation.

On October 28, 2000, the first-ever nuclear disaster drill held by the government under the new disaster countermeasures law was conducted at the Chugoku Electric Power Co.'s Shimane Nuclear Power Plant (photo, opposite top). Among the parties participating in the simulation was the Prime Minister as chief of the Countermeasures Headquarters, national and local authorities, and Chugoku Electric Power Co., as well as the media, medical authorities and other organizations.

National Government, Local Government, Nuclear Industry