For this Fukushima disaster, we can discuss about the Legal System for Nuclear Safety Regulations in Japan. In 1995, Atomic Energy Basic Law was established to contribute to enhancing the welfare of human society and improving the standard of living by promoting the Research & Development (R&D) and utilization of atomic energy. The regulations to ensure the safety and peaceful utilization of atomic energy are fundamentally enforced both under the Law for the Regulations of Nuclear Source Material, Nuclear Fuel Material and Reactors, and the Law concerning Prevention of Radiation Hazards due to Radioisotopes, etc. Below is the structure of Legal System for Nuclear Safety Regulations in Japan.
By referring to this structure, we can conclude that Japan government are well prepared enough to handle the nuclear power plant in their country. This Regulation had covered everything that needed for a nuclear power plant. From a guideline of how to construct a safe nuclear power plant till the measures that need to be taken when emergency happen due to nuclear power plant. However, the perfect law cannot protect the people if the responsible person himself did not abide by the law.
After the Fukushima disaster, the Japan government had established a special committee to investigate this disaster. The finding from the investigation showed that the Fukushima disaster mainly caused by the man-made nature that related to regulatory capture. Regulatory capture is a form of political corruption that occurs when a regulatory agency, created to act in the public interest, instead advances the commercial or special concerns of interest groups that dominate the industry or sector it is charged with regulating. In other word, we can said that regulatory capture is associated with act of corruption within the safety regulator, company and also government.
Despite warnings about its safety, Japanese regulators from the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency (NISA) approved a 10-year extension for the oldest of the six reactors at Fukushima Daiichi just one month before a 9.0 magnitude earthquake and subsequent tsunami damaged reactors and caused a meltdown. The conclusion to the Diet of Japan's report on Fukushima attributed this directly to regulatory capture.
Nuclear opponent Eisaku Sato, governor of Fukushima Prefecture from 1988–2006, said a conflict of interest is responsible for NISA's lack of effectiveness as a watchdog.The agency is under the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry, which encourages the development of Japan's nuclear industry. Inadequate inspections are reviewed by expert panels drawn primarily from academia and rarely challenge the agency. Critics say the main weakness in Japan's nuclear industry is weak oversight.Seismologist Takashi Nakata said, "The regulators just rubber-stamp the utilities' reports."
Both the ministry and the agency have ties with nuclear plant operators, such as Tokyo Electric. Some former ministry officials have been offered lucrative jobs in a practice called amakudari, "descent from heaven".in which senior regulators accepted high paying jobs at companies they once oversaw. To protect their potential future position in the industry, regulators sought to avoid taking positions that upset or embarrass the companies. TEPCO's position as the largest electrical utility in Japan made it the most desirable position for retiring regulators. Typically the "most senior officials went to work at Tepco, while those of lower ranks ended up at smaller utilities. A panel responsible for re-writing Japan's nuclear safety rules was dominated by experts and advisers from utility companies, said seismology professor Katsuhiko Ishibashi who quit the panel in protest, saying it was rigged and "unscientific".The new guidelines, established in 2006, did not set stringent industry-wide earthquake standards, rather nuclear plant operators were left to do their own inspections to ensure their plants were compliant. In 2008, the NISA found all of Japan's reactors to be in compliance with the new earthquake guidelines.
At their final report, the special committee conclude that this regulatory capture had caused lots of people involved to do some action that violate the law just solely for their own interest. Hence, corresponding to the report, in August 2011, several top energy officials were fired by the Japanese government; affected positions included the Vice-minister for Economy, Trade and Industry; the head of the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency, and the head of the Agency for Natural Resources and Energy.
Reference : ( this review is part of the task required for EUP 222)