When engineering professor Yotaro Hatamura took the job of heading the independent investigation into the Fukushima disaster, he said he was looking for lessons rather than culprits. He may have changed his mind.
The 507-page interim report, compiled by interviewing more than 400 people, including utility workers and government officials, found authorities had grossly underestimated tsunami risks, assuming the highest wave would be 6 meters (20 feet). The tsunami hit at more than double those levels.
Hatamura reserves some of his strongest criticism for Japan’s atomic power regulator, the Nuclear Industrial and Safety Agency, known as NISA.
Tepco spokesman Masato Yamaguchi declined to comment on the Hatamura report when contacted today before its official release.
“Collection of accurate and most up-to-date information is a prerequisite for timely and appropriate decision-making. This issue, together with the need for providing information to the nation, is of a major concern,” the report said.
TEPCO‘s “preparedness for such (an) accident as severe (as) damage at the core of (a) reactor as a result of natural disasters was quite insufficient”.
The public’s mistrust in the government grew as Tokyo repeatedly stressed that despite nuclear explosions, health risks were low, the panel said.
The report criticized the use of the term “soteigai,” meaning “outside our imagination,” which it said implied authorities were shirking responsibility for what had happened. It said by labelling the events as beyond what could have been expected, officials had invited public distrust.
“This accident has taught us an important lesson on how we must be ready for soteigai,” it said.
The report acknowledged people were still living in fear of radiation spewed into the air and water, as well as radiation in the food they eat. Thousands have been forced to evacuate and have suffered monetary damage from radiation contamination, it said.
“The nuclear disaster is far from over,” the report said.
The panel placed the blame squarely on TEPCO, the plant operator, and the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency for being ill-prepared for a catastrophe stemming from a temblor or tsunami that were beyond the design of the plant.
TEPCO and NISA were unable to deal with the nuclear disaster, and their arguments that tsunami “beyond their expectations” crippled the plant will not exonerate them from blame, according to the report.
The committee found “no evidence that the NISA officials provided necessary assistance or advice.” Even though NISA’s manual said to stay at the plant, their manager gave the officials permission to evacuate, according to the report, which doesn’t name the manager.
Communications became so fractured that plant manager Masao Yoshida, stationed in the emergency bunker, didn’t know what some workers were doing. The high pressure coolant injection system at the No. 3 reactor was stopped by a worker without authority from plant managers because he wanted to prevent the battery running out, according to the report. The reactor was one of the three that melted down.
Kazuma Yokota, a NISA inspector at Dai-Ichi at the time of the quake, said in an interview with Bloomberg News in April he was one of three inspectors who left the plant 15 minutes after the temblor for Okuma. The three reached the center in 15 minutes and found it wrecked, power down and no working communications, he said.
Yokota didn’t answer calls to his cell phone today seeking comment.
TEPCO’s accident management programmes assumed only relatively minor internal incidents such as mechanical failures and human errors, the panel said.
Risks such as “earthquakes and tsunamis were not included in the scope of consideration,” the panel said, adding that regulatory bodies also failed to force TEPCO to establish thorough safety measures.
“Measures against severe accidents should not be left with the operator?s voluntary activities,” the provisional English translation of the report said.
“The nuclear safety regulatory bodies should consider and determine legal requirements when they deem necessary.”
Emergency procedures set out by TEPCO and the government were not followed and were found to be impractical, the report said.
For example, Fukushima workers mistakenly believed that the plant’s cooling system was working even after the tsunami actually knocked it out. They then missed opportunities to correct that misunderstanding, the report said.
Source: News 24
Source: AP News
Source: NY Times
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