12:30-14:00, Monday, September 2, 2013
Chairman of Nuclear Regulation Authority
The nuclear industry in Japan is going through its worst crisis since its foundation over 50 years ago. The Fukushima Daiichi cleanup seems to become more complicated and expensive by the day. Experts are now widely skeptical that operator Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO) can control the spread of radioactive leaks to the sea, or successfully extract the plant's melted radioactive fuel without outside help. Some now say the cleanup could take a century.
In September, Japan's last two operating reactors again go offline, leaving the nation nuclear free for only the second time since the 1970s. The political battle to restart the nation's 50 commercial reactors will drag on for years, depending ultimately on highly contested and controversial safety reports.
The organization charged with bringing order to this mess is the Nuclear Regulation Authority. Created out of the ashes of the discredited Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency (NISA), the NRA has been dogged by doubts about its effectiveness since it was set up last year. Many critics say it is too focused on restarting those idling reactors to effectively monitor the Fukushima crisis. Others wonder if it has the manpower and funding it needs, or if it will suffer from the same credibility issues as its forerunner – given that it shares many of the same experts and staff.
To the surprise of some critics, however, the NRA has shown it has some teeth. Its recent criticism of TEPCO has been among the harshest since the crisis began. And unlike the embattled utility, NRA Chairman Shunichi Tanaka seems intent to call a spade a spade. "We should assume that what has happened once could happen again, and prepare for more," he said in August.
Tanaka has agreed to come to the FCCJ and take questions, answer criticisms and explain the work of his organization. His appearance provides a unique opportunity to quiz the man at the center of Japan's nuclear crisis about the future of the industry. Book your seat early.