TOKYO — Japan’s nuclear regulator on Wednesday approved a plan to introduce mandatory background checks on students and researchers working at research nuclear reactors to beef up security against terror attacks and theft.
Under the plan, students and researchers will be required to clear 17 checks, including on criminal records and mental disorders, to be granted access to nuclear facilities at 13 universities and research institutions across Japan.
The new rule will be put into effect in mid-January after public comment is solicited.
But there are concerns the inquiries could raise privacy issues while possibly dissuading some students from studying nuclear energy.
As some aspects of the check require those being assessed to self-report, experts have criticized the measures for likely not proving effective in thwarting a potential terror attack. Students or researchers will simply be asked to declare they have no links to terrorist groups or organized crime syndicates.
According to the Nuclear Regulation Authority, the screening will look into the applicants’ possible history of alcohol or drug abuse and will confirm their nationality.
Following written screenings and interviews by facility operators, students and researchers will be allowed to access areas where nuclear materials are handled.
The 13 institutions include the University of Tokyo, Kyoto University, the Japan Atomic Energy Agency — Japan’s largest nuclear research body — and Japan Nuclear Fuel Ltd., the owner of a yet-to-be-completed spent nuclear fuel reprocessing plant in Rokkasho, Aomori Prefecture.
They currently manage a total of 18 reactors and other nuclear facilities.
Japan introduced a system that requires utilities that manage ordinary nuclear power plants to carry out background checks on workers in November last year.