March 15th, 2011 – TEPCO fail on info-sharing / No N-crisis HQ for 4 days after tsunami disabled reactor cooling system

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Weiner, Mary
From: Wegner, Mary
Sent: Tuesday, March 15, 2011 2:49 PM
To: Garmon-Candelaria, David
Cc: Beasley, Benjamin
Subject: Editorial Blasting Gov’t TEPCO

Govt, TEPCO fail on info-sharing / No N-crisis HQ for 4 days after tsunami disabled reactor cooling system
The Yomiuri Shimbun

Both the government of Prime Minister Naoto Kan and Tokyo Electric Power Co. failed to exercise a firm grip over the release of information on the rapidly unfolding nuclear crisis at the utility’s nuclear power plant in Fukushima Prefecture, and did not set up an integrated government-TEPCO headquarters until Tuesday, four days after the outbreak of earthquake-triggered abnormalities.

A domino effect of crises at the Fukushima No. I nuclear power plant took place with hydrogen blasts occurring at the No. 1 reactor on Saturday and at the No. 3 reactor on Monday.

The events were followed by the most serious development yet in the escalating crisis–the No. 2 reactor’s inner pressure suppression system was found to be damaged early Tuesday, resulting in the detection of high radiation readings in the vicinity of the plant later in the morning.

It was at 8:45 p.m. Friday, six hours after the catastrophic earthquake hammered the Pacific coastal regions of the Tohoku and Kanto areas, that the Fukushima prefectural government issued a warning against residents living within a two-kilometer radius of the plant to be evacuated over fear of radiation exposure.

About an hour later, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano announced an instruction urging residents within a three-kilometer radius of the No. I plant to evacuate. In making the announcement, however, Edano denied any possibility of radioactive leakage out of the nuclear facility.

Things changed drastically a day later, Saturday afternoon: A hydrogen explosion blew off all but the framework of the No. 1 reactor’s external containment structure.

Nonetheless, in a press conference five hours after the blast, Edano continued stressing that the reactor’s inner components were “kept under control,” repeating that the public should “act calmly.”

It was not until Sunday morning that TEPCO informed the Fukushima prefectural government’s disaster countermeasures headquarters that the No. 3 reactor cooling system had stopped functioning. The firm at that time did not provide any detailed information about radiation levels in areas surrounding the plant.

Each time problems with the nuclear plant took a new turn, Edano held a press conference, but always came up came short of providing specific details about what was going on. TEPCO, for its part, made a point of parroting Edano’s words, a far-from-responsible position for the company, which should have been expected to offer intelligible explanations about the quake-hit nuclear facility.

Kan, apparently in a fret over the utility’s responses to the crisis, said to reporters on Sunday that the information provided to the government from the company was of a piecemeal and “belated” nature, a statement interpreted by some observers as intending to dodge responsibility for the crisis by shifting blame to TEPCO.

At that point, the prime minister was hardly ready to launch integrated, collaborative arrangements with;the company and the Fukushima prefectural government to share information on measures to address the emerging crisis.

At the same time, the Economy, Trade and Industry Ministry’s Nuclear and Industry Safety Agency maintained there was “no serious problem” with the reactor’s containment structure covering its core.

Asked by reporters on Monday the reason for the statement, nuclear safety agency officials could not provide any explanation other than the agency had received “no other information from TEPCO” on the matter, making it conspicuous that there was no effective information-sharing arrangement between the power utility and the government.

It was not until Tuesday morning that the government made a belated decision to establish an integrated information-sharing headquarters with TEPCO after the blast at the No. 2 reactor–four days after the earthquake-triggered tsunami onslaught.
(Mar. 16, 2011)

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