Response to Nuclear Crisis Reveals Bias All Around

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Tokyo Electric Power Co (TEPCO) released an interim report in which the company said there was no significant damage caused to the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant by the March 11 earthquake.

The 130-page report, released to the media at the end of November, also claims that there was no explosion at the plant following the earthquake. It says that critical equipment in reactors one to four within the Daiichi plant were not damaged by the earthquake, based on the fact that there were few changes to data readings from the monitoring systems until the arrival of the tsunami, NHK said.

The report says the sounds of an explosion heard emanating from No. 2 reactor were, in fact, the sounds of a hydrogen explosion in No. 4 reactor. The utility explains that a sudden drop in pressure detected in the suppression pool was probably due to a failure of the monitoring systems.

TEPCO admitted in the report that its countermeasures against a possible tsunami were inadequate. It said the plant could have withstood tsunami up to 6 meters high and that the March 11 tsunami, which was 13 meters high, was far beyond the utility’s expectations.

The report’s release came just after it was revealed that a recent TEPCO simulation concluded that overheated fuel could have eaten through the thick concrete floor in the plant’s No. 1 reactor. The news is at odds with what company executives originally told Japanese lawmakers during the height of the crisis.

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Kenji Sumita, professor emeritus of Osaka University and former acting chairman of the Nuclear Safety Commission, said: “The investigation committee’s report shows a lack of self-reflection on how insufficient the safety measures were. Also, the report doesn’t tell us what roles TEPCO’s head office played in the crisis.

“The opinions of the outside experts’ panel are also ambiguous about the fact that TEPCO said it was unable to predict a hydrogen explosion, and it seems to be trying to protect TEPCO,” he added.

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Outside experts investigating the crisis at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant operated by Tokyo Electric Power Co. seem to have taken a sympathetic attitude toward TEPCO although they concluded the utility’s safety measures were insufficient.

However, the interim report by the in-house investigation panel contained almost no descriptions of failures in TEPCO’s responses to the accident.

  • It has been already revealed that venting equipment was delivered to the wrong place and plant workers knew nothing about auxiliary battery storage. But the report did not mention such failures at all.
  • About the fact that TEPCO had assumed tsunami more than 15 meters high–equivalent to the March 11 tsunami–in 2008, the in-house investigation committee flatly denied that the assumption required action.
  • The committee concluded, “The estimate was based on a simulation of unlikely events, and thus the predicted tsunami were not likely enough to require the company to prepare.”
  • The outside experts’ panel agreed, saying, “Tsunami of a scale that could not be predicted.”
  • The experts also did not deeply examine why venting in the No. 1 reactor was delayed for so long.
    • More than seven hours elapsed between the time the government confirmed the evacuation of nearby residents at 12:30 a.m. on March 12 and the time when the venting was ordered.

    TEPCO Executive Vice President Masao Yamazaki, who chairs the in-house investigation committee, said at a press conference Friday, “We had implemented measures for severe accidents as part of integrated actions with the government.” He suggested the government should share responsibility with TEPCO for the inadequate accident-prevention measures.

    It is believed their probe into TEPCO’s reaction to the accident was superficial out of concern for the potentially huge compensation claims that TEPCO faces.

    “TEPCO should have decided in advance detailed procedures based on the assumption that all external power supplies were lost,” the panel of outside experts said in its assessment of the accident.

    The outside experts’ crisis examination committee also touched on the fact that there were only two phone lines connecting the plant’s quake-proof building for emergency use and three central control rooms, though the workers had to handle six reactors at the plant simultaneously.

    “Sharing such information is a very important task,” the experts simply pointed out in their report.

    One member of the outside experts’ committee said, “In the process of compiling the report, I felt TEPCO was worried about the compensation problem.”

    About 40 shareholders of TEPCO recently demanded in writing that the company’s auditors file a lawsuit against 61 past and current management executives seeking more than 5 trillion yen of compensation for the company. They said they will file a class-action lawsuit if the auditors fails to act.

    It is inevitable TEPCO will face a shareholders lawsuit as the probability that the auditors will follow the demand is low.


    At the nuclear plant, the March 11 tsunami disabled emergency power generators, and workers concentrated their efforts mostly on venting steam containing radioactive substances from the reactors.

    But TEPCO had not decided how the venting and water injections should be carried out when all the power supplies are lost, and thus workers at the plant were confused.

     


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    TEPCO has said the core of the No. 1 reactor started being damaged shortly before 7 p.m. on March 11, four hours after the massive earthquake hit east Japan.

    However, venting at the No. 1 reactor was was not begun until about 2 p.m. on March 12.

    [/quote]

    The New York Times reports that a number of scientists and nuclear engineers have questioned whether the company’s makeshift cooling system is capable of cooling nuclear fuel that could have trickled into the concrete. While the new simulations paint a far bleaker picture than earlier reports, assistant physics professor Hiroaki Koide of Kyoto University Research Institute believes TEPCO’s latest assessments are still unrealistic.


    TEPCO has also been hit by scandals affecting all Japanese Utilities, regarding attempting to affect public perception of nuclear power by staging employees and undercover activists at many public forums, meant to steer conversation and questions toward the pro-nuclear arena.

    Of the 275 employees who were a division chief or above at Kashiwazaki-Kariwa NPP since 2008, over 50% (149 out of 275) of them admitted they had been given information to pass on to lower-level employees to disseminate at targeted symposiums.

    While some employees were instructed to ask questions, or provide good commentary regarding new procedures or equipment, many ‘listeners’ were dispatched who would create records of attendance and sentiment, and distribute these findings at headquarter meetings.

    Source: TEPCO

    Source: Japan Today

    Source: Yomiuri.co.jp

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