The Diet’s Nuclear Accident Independent Investigative Commission (NAIIC) has released some preliminary findings. The full report will be published by the end of June. Part of the report focusses on the actions of PM Naoto Kan and his staff during the early months of the Fukushima accident. It has touched off a verbal war between the panel and Kan. Here’s some of the coverage…

  • Kan and his staff are blasted by the NAIIC report on six points, not the least of which is “excessive intervention” during the early phase of the crisis. Panel member Shuya Nomura said, “Officials at the Prime Minister’s Office made frequent calls to workers on site to ask inappropriate basic questions. To answer such questions, the workers had to waste their time and energy. The Prime Minister’s Office’s frequent intervention confused the chain of command [at the plant].” Nomura also said the panel could find no evidence of Tepco ever planning on abandoning F. Daiichi, in opposition to incorrect assumptions by Kan and his staff. Although Kan says the prevention of complete withdrawal was one of his achievements during the crisis, the panel has openly refuted his claim. Nomura says that Tepco “did not coordinate with the Prime Minister’s Office’s intervention, but simply conveyed instructions [from the office] to workers on site.” The second point in the report is that the PM’s crisis-control system needs drastic revision. Concerning the delay in declaring the nuclear crisis, Nomura said, “It failed to play the role it should have, leading to delays in issuing evacuation instructions and releasing information on the nuclear crisis.” The third point says matters inside a nuclear power plant should be handled by the utility, while outside issues should be covered by the government. The remaining points are that the government’s actions caused delay and confusion in public protective actions, the disuse of SPEEDI predictive modeling to determine areas exposed to Fukushima airborne releases resulted in essentially arbitrary evacuations, and the PM’s staff actions undermined the safety and health of local residents. When Nomura finished outlining the six points, Chairman Kiyoshi Kurokawa asked the other panel members if they had any objections. None did. The six points were unanimously approved. (Yomiuri Shimbun)
  • In his personal blog, Naoto Kan fired a broadside at the NAIIC conclusions, denying any wrong-doing. Concerning the allegation of excessive intervention, Kan posted, “It was indeed unusual for the Prime Minister’s Office to get directly involved, but we were dealing with a disaster more serious than either (plant operator) Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO) or the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency (NISA) had ever envisioned. That the Prime Minister’s Office did what was necessary is fact.” He then added, “TEPCO could not inject water into the reactors on its own, and it was my office that ordered the Self-Defense Forces and other units into action (to help). I still believe that, as NISA was not functioning, my office could not avoid getting directly involved in managing the crisis.” With respect to the F. Daiichi abandonment issue, Kan said Tepco had probed the possibility of pulling out its entire staff, and rejected the suggestion of a misunderstanding on the part of the Prime Minister’s Office. Kan demanded the public release of all video conference calls recorded between the Fukushima No. 1 plant and TEPCO headquarters in Tokyo, which he feels will exonerate him and his staff. (Mainichi Shimbun)

Now for some other updates…

  • Tepco has claimed their information problems during the nuclear crisis were the fault of the Prime Minister’s office. Tepco’s draft report of their investigation into the accident says, “Because we had to seek approval from the prime minister’s office and the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency (on publicity matters), the timing of the announcement and the content were restricted.” In addition, Tepco states the Prime Minister’s office caused “unnecessary confusion” among the staff at the F. Daiichi accident site. Plant manager Yoshida said calls from the PM’s office forced him to divert attention from the rapidly-deteriorating situation. Such behavior by the government “put the plant chief in a dilemma and did not improve the outcome of efforts to address the accident.” One example concerns March 12 when PM Naoto Kan called Yoshida and said an acquaintance told him Fukushima might develop similar to Three Mile Island in 1979. This was essentially a waste of Yoshida’s precious time. Yoshida also described Kan as “running amok and yelling” and acting in “an extremely high-handed manner” during his un-announced assault of Tepco’s home office on March 15, due to outrage over a rumored abandonment of F. Daiichi. Tepco had no intention of full withdrawal. The report says Tepco employees had a “determination to remain (at the site) even in a crisis situation”, but not because Kan ordered them to stay. (Kyodo News)
  • A draft report by the Science Ministry’s says they knew computer simulation, using SPEEDI, was reliable at the onset of the crisis at Fukushima. However, the Ministry decided to with-hold the data until April 25th, more than a month after 3/11/11, because they feared it would cause public disorder. Plus, they felt SPEEDI data was “only a prediction”. However, the Ministry sent a team to Namie Town on March 15th to take radiation readings and then compare them to SPEEDI predictions. Even though there seemed to be a positive correlation, they chose to keep the information in-house. (NHK World)
  • Fukui governor Issei Nishikawa visited the Oi nuclear power complex on Tuesday to verify claims of safety improvements. On Monday, the prefecture’s nuclear safety commission told Nishikawa that all necessary safety measures had been taken. Before the inspection, the governor said, “Based on the report I received, I’d like to see how (the measures) have been implemented and utilize (the findings) for my judgment.” As a result of his visit, it is expected Nishikawa will endorse the Oi restarts as early as Friday. (Kyodo News)
  • Oi mayor Shinobu Tokioka is expected to announce Thursday that he will approve switching the reactors back on. The Oi town assembly and Fukui safety commission have endorsed the nuke restarts, which Tomioka has said were prerequisites for his decision. It is believed governor Nishikawa’s visit to the nukes will give the mayor even more reason to support resumption. Once the Fukui governor and Oi mayor make their formal restart announcements, it is expected that the Tokyo government will quickly announce their decision. (NHK World)
  • If the Oi nukes are given permission to restart this week, it could be the end of July before both units are at full power. Kepco says it will take about three weeks to get unit #3 up to full power because of necessary pre-operational testing and system impurity removal. Only one unit can be restarted at a time, so unit #4’s full reactivation could take another three weeks after unit #3. Kepco and the Tokyo government agree that with both units at full power, the possibility of summer electrical shortages in the Kansai region will be minimal. Regardless, Kepco is preparing for possible rolling blackouts before both units are at full power. (Japan Times)