Why is it so hard to get information from TEPCO?
On February 26th, we reported on the fire at Tokyo Electric Power Companies Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant, smoke was detected in a building full of heat-exchange equipment, but no fire was found by the time that the local fire department arrived on-scene.
Subsequent press releases did not include any updates to, or even mention the event, and to date TEPCO has yet to provide a detailed event summary. Many main stream media sources did not feel it necessary to pick up the press release, but the information that was released did not provide any clear sequence of events or allude to the current condition of affected areas of the plant.
After 24 hours, we began attempting to contact TEPCO’s press contacts in Washington DC through the numbers listed on TEPCO’s website, and were only able to catch voicemails. 48 hours after the event we started contacting international press contacts and all industry contacts, who were also not privy to any further updates. In an attempt to raise contact by any means we even reached out to the Japanese consulate, explained the situation and inquired if they could pass our inquiries to any contacts in Japan that might help direct us, or for any other guidance they might be able to provide as to better contacts to reach out to, but they were also unable to provide any information.
The event at Kashiwazaki-Kariwa Unit 5 was not communicated as a serious event, and it was reported as under-control and no threat to those living around the nuclear power plant. The writer found no information in the release that would make him question the honesty of the report, but the story has become less about the details of the event which could have been summarized and provided easily, and more about the difficult quest to gain any further information on an event that occurred at a nuclear power station operated by the company that is seen as responsible for the worst nuclear disaster in history.
Today, we were finally able to reach the TEPCO offices in Washington DC, and again requested for any event summary and status update that they would be willing to provide. The young woman took our contact information, and said that we would be provided any further information.
20 minutes after leaving our information, we received this e-mail;
On 2/29/2012 3:02 PM, Tokyo Electric Power Company wrote:
Dear Mr. Hixson:
The latest press release on the subject of your inquiry was issued on February 26, 2012, as you are already aware.
I will communicate with our nuclear programs manager to check for any updates and we will promptly send you any latest information available on this matter. Thank you.
X. X. XXXXXXX (Named not disclosed for privacy)
Tokyo Electric Power Company
The responsibility to notify and inform the public of events at a nuclear power plant is not just a process to be followed, but should be one of the most important parts of TEPCO’s strategy to regain public trust and a key focus after the Fukushima Nuclear Disaster. Almost a year after the March 11th disaster, while the number of nuclear power plants operating in Japan may have changed, it could be interpreted that the safety culture and regard for full disclosure have not. We will faithfully keep our readers updated to this story, if any further updates are provided.