Tokyo: The Japanese government on Saturday unveiled a set of ideas to improve nuclear safety, proposing that a new agency be set up under either the Environment Ministry or the Cabinet Office.

Prime Minister Naoto Kan and his Cabinet members want to separate the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency from the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry, which promotes the use of atomic energy, in the wake of the crisis at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant.

After consulting with the ruling Democratic Party of Japan, as well as opposition parties, the government is hoping to finalise at a Cabinet meeting possibly on Aug 12 where to establish the new nuclear watchdog, and to move the functions of the safety agency to a new structure in April.

Goshi Hosono, minister in charge of the nuclear crisis who drafted the set of ideas, told a news conference that "Japan's national interests will be seriously damaged" if the regulatory reform fails.

The current setup of the nuclear safety agency under the industry ministry has been criticized for lax supervision by the government of nuclear facilities and a slow response to the ongoing crisis at the Fukushima plant, triggered by the powerful March 11 earthquake and tsunami.

Hosono called on opposition parties, which control the House of Councillors, to cooperate in passing necessary bills. He said the bills should be discussed during the next ordinary Diet session starting in January.

Under the draft, the new body would absorb a range of existing nuclear-related work currently undertaken by different government institutions. There would also be a new panel, composed of third-party experts, under the body.

To begin with, the government is planning to move about 500 to 600 officials from the current safety agency, the Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Ministry, and the Nuclear Safety Commission.

(Agencies)