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Fukushima disaster could have been avoided

October 13, 2012
Utility feared vital safety steps would hurt image
Tepco finally admits crisis was avoidable





Tokyo Electric Power Co. has acknowledged for the first time that the nuclear disaster at the Fukushima No. 1 power plant could have been avoided.

 In a statement Friday, Tepco's internal reform task force said the utility was aware safety improvements were necessary before last year's tsunami resulted in three catastrophic core meltdowns at the facility, but failed to act because it feared the political, economic and legal consequences of implementing additional measures.

"Looking back on the accident, the problem was that preparations were not made in advance," the task force, led by Tepco President Naomi Hirose, said in the statement.

"Could necessary measures have been taken with previous tsunami evaluations? It was possible to take action" by adopting more extensive safety measures, the task force concluded.

But Tepco feared efforts to better protect its nuclear facilities from major natural disasters would trigger antinuclear sentiment, interfere with operations and increase litigation risks, according to the task force.

The utility said it could have mitigated the impact of the meltdowns if it had diversified power and cooling systems by paying closer heed to international standards and recommendations.

Tepco also should have provided training for its employees on practical crisis-management skills, rather than conducting obligatory drills as a mere formality, the task force added.

The admissions mark a major reversal for Tepco, which had defended its preparedness and crisis management since the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami knocked out power to the Fukushima No. 1 plant, leading to the triple meltdowns, massive evacuations and decontamination work that will take decades to complete.

The statement was released after Tepco's Nuclear Reform Monitoring Committee, headed by former U.S. nuclear regulatory chief Dale Klein, held its inaugural meeting Friday. The five-member committee monitors the task force's reform plans.

"It's very important for Tepco to recognize the need to reform and the committee is very anxious to facilitate the reforms necessary for Tepco to become a world-class company," Klein told a news conference Friday. "The committee's goal is to ensure that Tepco develops practices and procedures so an accident like (the Fukushima meltdowns) will never happen again."

The reform plans aim to use the lessons learned at Tepco's Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear plant in Niigata Prefecture. The cash-strapped utility wants to restart the facility's seven reactors, but officials at the utility denied the plans are aimed at improving its public image to gain support for the plant's reactivation.

"The reforms are intended to improve our safety culture, and we have no intention to link it to the possibility of resuming operations at the (Kashiwazaki-Kariwa) plant," said Takafumi Anegawa, Tepco's official in charge of nuclear asset management. "We don't have any preconditions for our reforms."

The Fukushima No. 1 plant has been stabilized to a considerable extent, but is still running on makeshift equipment as workers continue preparations to decommission the four wrecked reactors, a process expected to take as long as four decades.

Additional safety measures have been installed at nuclear power stations nationwide since the Fukushima crisis under government instructions, including bolstering seawalls, adding backup power and coolant water sources, and enhancing crisis-management training. But plant operators will be required to take further steps as the Nuclear Regulation Authority, the new watchdog launched in September, ups safety requirements.

Investigative reports compiled by the government and Diet panels said collusion between Tepco and government regulators allowed lax supervision and allowed the utility to continue lagging in safety measures.

Tepco's Anegawa said the task force plans to compile recommendations by the end of the year "that would have saved us from the accident, if we were able to turn back the clock."

TEPCO admits fault in Fukushima nuclear disaster




Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO) has for the first time admitted it failed to take adequate measures to prevent the disaster at its Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant.

The statement marks a major turnaround from TEPCO's previous insistence that the meltdowns were the result of "unforeseeable tsunami."

"If we had taken measures based on previous tsunami evaluations and adopted sufficient countermeasures against severe accidents, (the nuclear disaster) could have been handled," TEPCO stated on Oct. 12.

The statement is a stark contrast to an in-house accident investigation report compiled in June, which made the "unforeseeable tsunami" claim and sparked harsh accusations against the utility of base self-justification.

Also on Oct. 12, TEPCO held the first meeting of an expert panel to its executive board, called the Nuclear Reform Monitoring Committee. The firm's new mea culpa was incorporated into a draft presented by the firm's Nuclear Reform Special Task Force. The task force is designed to map out detailed reform plans for the utility's nuclear energy department, under the supervision of the Nuclear Reform Monitoring Committee.

The draft pointed out that the nuclear disaster could have been dealt with if the company had taken into consideration the possibility of tsunami beyond expectations, and that the utility could have diversified its safety equipment in reference to severe accident measures adopted overseas.

"You can take this as our company's view," said Takafumi Anegawa, chief of the secretariat of the task force and general manager of TEPCO's Nuclear Asset Management Department. His remarks affirmed that the latest views conflict with those of the in-house investigation panel, but Anegawa stopped short of explaining the reasons for the discrepancy in detail.

Dale Klein, former chairman of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) in the United States and who now chairs TEPCO's Nuclear Reform Monitoring Committee, stressed the need to drastically reform TEPCO in order to continue to use nuclear power as an energy source. The committee is tasked with screening reform proposals made by the Nuclear Reform Special Task Force and supervising its progress.






October 12, 2012


TEPCO admits to insufficient tsunami measures



Tokyo Electric Power Company has admitted for the first time that its measures to protect the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant from tsunamis were insufficient.

The company acknowledged its failure at the first meeting of an independent panel on Friday.

The 5-member panel, headed by former chairman of the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission Dale Klein, aims to help the utility reform its management. The firm has been the focus of criticism since the nuclear disaster in March last year.

The firm presented to the panel a reform plan drafted by an in-house team. It said the utility was able to take necessary steps to prepare for tsunamis before the accident, and should have had more effective organization and held practical disaster prevention drills.

The team said TEPCO should address issues pointed out by the government and Diet investigative panels, and carry out reforms without exceptions.

The plan is an about-face from the utility's final report on its probe into the accident, released in June.

The report said the firm was not fully prepared for a nuclear disaster, but defended its decisions and responses after the Fukushima Daiichi accident. The government and Diet investigative panels severely criticized the report.

Team member Takafumi Anegawa says the company's stance on the accident has changed. He adds that TEPCO will not win public understanding by saying the company did all it could but failed to prevent the accident.

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