During the next Diet session, beginning in January 2005, a bill to introduce a 'clearance' system will be submitted as an amendment to the Law for the Regulation of Nuclear Source Material, Nuclear Fuel Material and Reactors. Under this system, radioactive waste with less than a certain concentration of radioactivity would be treated as non-radioactive waste1.
In anticipation of this, at a December 2004 meeting of an advisory committee to the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (the Radioactive Waste Subcommittee of the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Subcommittee of the Advisory Committee for Natural Resources and Energy) the clearance levels for major radionuclides were changed as indicated in table 1 below. The committee simply applied the standards in IAEA's August 2004 RS-G-1.7. These standards are stricter than the Nuclear Safety Commission's (NSC) 1999 standards, but of course the fundamental nature of the proposal is unchanged: i.e. some radioactive waste will be 'cleared'.
Revised standards were proposed by NSC in December 2004, immediately before the above advisory committee meeting. These were said to 'take into account such things as the Japanese social environment and daily lifestyle', but they were rejected in the interests of 'international consistency'. However questions remain regarding the manner in which they were rejected. NSC carried out a reassessment which took into account the RS-G-1.7 document. It (1) assessed radiation dose to the skin; (2) reappraised dose conversion coefficients based on the latest coefficients proposed by the International Commission on Radiological Protection (ICRP); (3) added pathways for direct oral ingestion; and (4) made an assessment for 1-2 year-old children. With the exception of tritium, the standards proposed by NSC were generally less strict than RS-G-1.7, but we can't accept this free-wheeling globalization of standards, given that the real aim is to promote the international movement of radioactive substances.
Besides 'clearance levels', the following matters are included in the Bill to Amend the Law for the Regulation of Nuclear Source Material, Nuclear Fuel Material and Reactors, which is being introduced during the next Diet session:
a. introduction of safety regulations in regard to the use of natural radioactivity;
b. strengthening of regulations relating to the protection of nuclear materials;
c. introduction of regulations relating to the dismantling and disposal of nuclear facilities;
d. rules regarding the duty to report accidents and faults;
e. prohibition on the dumping of radioactive waste at sea;
f. raising of penalties.
Of these, the strengthening of regulations relating to the protection of nuclear materials is particularly dangerous. A duty of confidentiality, with penalties equal to or greater than those for public servants, will be applied to employees of civilian companies, such as nuclear power companies, design companies, construction companies, maintenance companies and security companies. Protective measures will be adopted, with workers becoming 'hypothetical enemies'. Even greater secrecy will be maintained around the transport of radioactive materials, making accident prevention and response impossible. People living along the transport route will be exposed to even greater dangers and society as a whole will be turned into a nuclear police state.
In addition to the Bill to Amend the Law for the Regulation of Nuclear Source Material, Nuclear Fuel Material and Reactors, it is also expected that a bill will be introduced for a new law to shift to consumers the costs of dismantling and disposing of the Rokkasho Reprocessing Plant and to make the tax system more favorable to electric power companies. In fact, the cost of disposing of Rokkasho will be greatly affected by the 'clearance' system. The strengthening of regulations relating to the protection of nuclear materials is also largely targeted at reprocessing plants. So if these two laws could be blocked, that would put a brake on the operation of the Rokkasho Reprocessing Plant.
CNIC has problems not just with the introduction of a 'clearance' system, but with the whole package, including the proposed amendments to the existing legislation and also the proposed new law. In cooperation with other groups, we will continue to express our opposition. As part of this campaign, we are organizing a national conference to oppose these two laws. The conference will be held in Tokyo on 6 February 2005.