Tepco’s Fukushima report has spawned numerous news articles in the Press. Until the English version of the report is released, I will report on the Press stories only. Once the report itself is translated I will summarize it as completely and objectively as possible. Here’s the latest news media-based information…
- Japan Times’s headline reads “Tepco lashes prime minister’s office”. Tepco says the government, led by Naoto Kan, did nothing but make their lives miserable, contributed nothing positive, and wasted their precious time during the crucial first five days of the crisis. Beginning in the wee hours of March 12, the Prime Minister’s staff often called with questions and/or suggestions, but they were out of touch with what was going on at the plant. Due to calls from 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 Tepco report says the cause of the accident was the enormous scale of the tsunami combined with the company’s lack of preparedness. As for operator error allegations with emergency cooling operations, the report defended them by saying they did their best amid unprecedented circumstances.
- The Yomiuri Shimbun reports Tepco believes the prime minister’s office caused unnecessary confusion that hurt Tepco efforts. PM Naoto Kan called to make unrealistic comments and suggestions that hurt rather than helped the effort. For example, Kan phoned the plant manager, Masao Yoshida, on March 12 and told him the plant’s reactors could be cooled down by referring to the 1979 nuclear crisis at Three Mile Island in the United States. This made no sense to Yoshida or anyone else at Fukushima Daiichi because the plant was a boiling water system (BWR) and TMI was a pressurized water system (PWR). Tepco described the instructions as “unrealistic given the actual state” of the reactors. Regarding information released to local residents, Tepco again blamed the Prime Minister’s Office for delaying the release of information. Tepco found it difficult to release information without approval from the PM’s office after they were admonished by Kan’s staff for posting photos of the unit #1 hydrogen explosion on March 12. As a result, the utility could not promptly announce situations such as pressure inside the No. 3 reactor’s containment vessel increasing on March 14, until it obtained government approval. Also, Tepco says they can prove they never planned to abandon F. Daiichi because of an internal document circulated during the crisis. The internal document stipulates that all employees “except for emergency workers” should be evacuated quickly in the event of an accident. Tepco says they “found it odd” when Kan shouted that withdrawing all workers would be unacceptable during his impromptu visit to Tepco headquarters. This is in line with the Nuclear Accident Independent Investigative Commission’s conclusion that it “cannot confirm that TEPCO made a decision to withdraw all workers” from the plant.
- Mainichi Shimbun reports Fukushima residents are upset with the Tepco report, calling it “sloppy and false”. “TEPCO should have asked itself why it didn’t have a sufficient tsunami policy and whether they had an opportunity to set one up. We still don’t know what happened in the cores of the No. 1, 2 and 3 reactors, among other unclear information. TEPCO should continue to try and explain all facts related to the crisis, and the government’s disaster committee should do a deep investigation of the accident,” said Yoshihiro Koyama, head of Fukushima Prefecture’s nuclear safety measures division, The Mayor of Namie town says there’s at least one falsification where Tepco says some staff went to Namie on March 13 to let the town know what was happening. Mayor Tamotsu Baba says that they heard from TEPCO officials for the first time only in late March. Another resident said, “Despite being a final report, I feel somewhat that TEPCO is still hiding many things. It’s crystal clear that the company tries to play innocent and escape responsibility.” In summation, the Mainichi says that the Tepco report is nothing more than a “self-justification” and “TEPCO has absolutely no way to evade its responsibility for the Fukushima nuclear crisis.”
- The New York Times (Asia Pacific) says the Tepco report is an attempt to exonerate itself of wrongdoing relative to the Fukushima accident. The company is trying to reclaim some of its former standing by distancing itself from their missteps in the accident. “The report is too full of excuses,” said Masako Sawai of the Citizens’ Nuclear Information Center, “If we don’t get to the bottom of this accident, how can we prevent future ones?” The Times also reports Tepco’s denial of ever planning on an abandonment of the accident site. Tepco executive vice president Masao Yamazaki said, “It is an undeniable fact that our employees stayed — or even voluntarily returned to the plant — to bring it under control. Multiple reactors were in trouble, all power was lost, there were frequent aftershocks and tsunami warnings. But still, our employees stayed at their posts.”
In other Fukushima news…
- Tepco says they will soon be removing spent fuel from unit #4 at Fukushima Daiichi, a year ahead of schedule. “We would like to start taking out undamaged fuel this year. Preparation is now under way,” Japan’s nuclear crisis minister, Goshi Hosono said. He added, “Doing it quickly is important. But we also have to make sure those workers out there, who are struggling under harsh conditions, will not be endangered by trying to move things fast.” Work began in April to put a cover over the building to keep radioactive dust from scattering during the transport of the fuel rods. The removed fuel bundles will be placed in a storage pool in a separate, undamaged building at the Fukushima plant. TEPCO says its analysis shows the No.4 reactor building would hold up in a strong earthquake. (Japan Today)
- Japan’s Atomic Energy Commission has announced three possible paths for nuclear waste disposal. If Japan abandons nuclear energy, it should bury all spent fuel in deep geological formations. If 15% of Japan’s electricity comes from nukes, they should recycle some of the spent fuel. If nuclear’s electric contribution is 20% or more, all spent fuel should be recycled. (NHK World)
- The potential for nuke restarts at the Sendai power station has become the central issue in the Kagoshima prefecture gubernatorial race. Incumbent Governor Yuichiro Ito is not opposed to Kyushu Electric Power Co. restarting its Sendai nukes. Independent candidate, Yoshitaka Mukohara, 55, heads a group opposed to nuclear plants and is demanding that the Sendai complex be immediately decommissioned. This is the first gubernatorial election since the decision to restart Oi 3&4, and its outcome could indicate the future of nuclear energy in Japan. (Japan Times)
- The preliminary cleansing of steam and water pipes of impurities at Oi #3 is over. The same process will be immediately applied to Oi unit #4. Unit #3 is now scheduled for restart on July 1st, with full power to be reached a week later. Unit #4 is scheduled for restart on July 17th with full power by July 28th. (NHK World)