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The importance of words

June 16, 2016

Panel: Use of words 'core meltdown' banned



A panel report says a former president of Tokyo Electric Power Company had instructed its officials not to use the words "core meltdown" in explaining the accident at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant. The panel says the president banned use of the words following what he said was an instruction from the prime minister's office.

TEPCO admitted meltdowns at 3 of its reactors at the Fukushima plant 2 months after the March 2011 accident. It had instead explained that the reactors' cores had been damaged.

A third-party panel was set up by the utility in March to investigate responses to the accident. It submitted the probe results on Thursday.

The panel report says then-TEPCO president Masataka Shimizu instructed a vice president, who was attending a news conference 3 days after the accident, not to use the words "core meltdown."

The report says the ban was conveyed to the vice president through a public relations officer and that it was explained as an instruction from the prime minister's office.

But the panel says it did not carry out investigations of the prime minister's office and that it could not gain details of the instruction through interviews with Shimizu and other officials. Such details include which member of the prime minister's office gave it and how.

Another panel set up by the Niigata prefectural government has also been investigating TEPCO's handling of the accident.

TEPCO earlier told the Niigata panel that it did not use the words "core meltdown" because there is no concise definition of them and that using the words may have given misleading information.

The third-party panel referred to the fact that it took more than 2 months for TEPCO to admit core meltdowns.

The panel report says it cannot say this was improper because TEPCO officials could not determine whether core meltdowns had taken place by inspecting the reactors at that time.

But the report also says core meltdowns were being mentioned within the company at that time and that it could have admitted the phenomena externally.

A panel jointly set up by Niigata Prefecture and TEPCO is expected to carry out further investigations of the matter.


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