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Thursday, June 21, 2012

Final in-house report on Fukushima debacle also acknowledges lack of adequate tsunami prep

Tepco lashes prime minister's office


Staff writer

Top politicians in the prime minister's office interfered too much in the early stages of the nuclear crisis, only deepening the chaos at the Fukushima No. 1 power plant, Tokyo Electric Power Co. claims in its final report on the disaster.

The allegation is included in the final report released Wednesday by Tepco's in-house panel investigating the catastrophe.

Starting in the early hours of March 12, 2011, leading officials in the prime minister's office began making specific requests of Tepco, and they were out of touch with what was going on at the plant, the report states.

Tepco officials believed then Prime Minister Naoto Kan was concerned about the possible negative effect of injecting seawater into reactor 1, so Tepco headquarters told workers at the plant to stop using seawater March 12.

But plant chief Masao Yoshida, believing it would have been dangerous to stop cooling the reactor, refused to stop the flow.

Due to the involvement of the prime minister's office "the plant chief was wedged between (the government and Tepco headquarters), and (requests from the prime minister's office) did not help the containment efforts," the report argues.

The report also says government orders to vent the containment vessels at reactors 1 and 2 to relieve the mounting pressure were not needed, as workers at the scene were already trying to do this. From this experience, the report recommends better clarification of the roles of the government, local authorities and plant operators.

Kan has said he had no choice but to get directly involved in plant operations to find out what was going on at the disaster site.

"I had a sense of crisis that we wouldn't be able to do anything because the information was hardly reported to us," Kan said earlier this month.

The Tepco report says the direct cause of the accident was the enormous scale of the tsunami that knocked out the coolant systems for the fuel cores as well as the utility's poor preparedness for monster tsunami.

As for the possible mishandling of emergency cooling operations by workers, Tepco defended them by saying they did their best amid unprecedented circumstances.

Engineers thought reactor 1's isolation condenser, part of its cooling system, was working after the tsunami struck, though in reality it wasn't. In a power loss, the valve in the isolation condenser automatically shuts, preventing water from entering the reactor. The engineers were unaware of this and assumed the reactor was being cooled.



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