Nuclear Regulation Authority Chairman Shunichi Tanaka vowed to ensure the safety of the accident-stricken Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant as the regulatory body marked the first anniversary of its launch on Thursday.
"The situation of the Fukushima Daiichi plant remains unstable. Every time a radioactive water leakage, a blackout and other trouble occurs, I think of the people, living inconvenient lives in areas where they have been evacuated, getting worried about their hometowns," Tanaka, a native of the city of Fukushima, said in a statement.
"We will do our utmost, with a strong belief that we can, and must overcome this issue," he also said.
Some 150,000 people from Fukushima Prefecture still live as evacuees more than two years since the nuclear complex was hit by a huge earthquake and tsunami, triggering the world's worst nuclear crisis since the 1986 Chernobyl disaster.
The NRA was established on Sept. 19 last year, with the government hoping to restore shattered public confidence in nuclear regulation following the Fukushima crisis.
One of the key features of the new organization is the greater independence it has been given, compared with its predecessor, which was criticized as lacking any teeth since it fell under the industry ministry promoting nuclear power.
Tanaka described the past year as "groping in the dark," but noted that he is seeing progress toward the goal of creating a safety culture in the country.
"We have made efforts to be transparent, neutral, and to make judgments from scientific and technical perspectives. As a result, changes are occurring for sure, although gradually," he said.
In addition to the task of overseeing the situation at the Fukushima plant operated by Tokyo Electric Power Co., the NRA is also busy checking the safety of other nuclear reactors that have been left idle.
All of Japan's 50 commercial reactors are currently suspended after two reactors in western Japan -- the only ones left operating in the past year -- began routine checkups earlier in the month.
The country will remain with no nuclear power until the reactors satisfy the new safety requirements introduced in July.