Neutrality of Japan’s reactor experts in question

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MEMBERS of a Japanese government team assigned to establish reactor safety measures received funding from utility companies or atomic industry manufacturers, raising questions about the experts’ neutrality in the wake of last year’s tsunami-triggered nuclear disaster.

The Nuclear Regulation Authority said Nagoya University professor Akio Yamamoto received 27.14 million yen (£211,000) over the past three years for research on reactors.

That sum included 
6.28m yen (£49,000) from a subsidiary of Tokyo Electric Power Co, the utility that runs the Fukushima Dai-ichi plant which went into meltdown in March 2011.

The authority said three others on the six-member team received industry funding. Receiving such money is not illegal, but it could call the neutrality of the team into question, since the industry would benefit from laxer standards.

The commission had asked the team members to voluntarily disclose such funding, including grants and donations, in an effort to boost transparency.

Separately, another team of experts working under the commission has been examining earthquake faults at Ohi nuclear power plant, which houses the only two reactors currently running in Japan.

A decision is expected today on whether Ohi will be shut down.

Japan’s 48 other working nuclear reactors, besides the four ruined at Fukushima Daiichi, have not been restarted after being shut down for routine inspections. The two at Ohi went back on line in July. Before the Fukushima disaster, nuclear power had provided about 30 per cent of Japan’s electricity.

Ruling party legislator Goshi Hosono, the former minister overseeing the disaster, yesterday said that more tests may be needed to check the earthquake faults, but even “a gray zone” of uncertainty would likely mean the Ohi reactors would go offline.