Tokyo Electric Power Company (Tepco) faked nuclear safety records
Power company failed to maintain safety checks, Kimiko De Freytas-Tamura SMH March 21, 2011 OSAKA: Days before Japan plunged into an atomic crisis after a giant earthquake and tsunami knocked out power at the ageing Fukushima nuclear plant, its operator had admitted faking repair records.
The revelation raises more questions about the scandal-tainted past of the Tokyo Electric Power Company (Tepco) and the government’s perceived soft regulation of the industry.
The operator of the Fukushima No. 1 plant submitted a report to the country’s nuclear watchdog 10 days before the quake hit on March 11, admitting it had failed to inspect 33 pieces of equipment in its six reactors.
A power board distributing electricity to a reactor’s temperature control valves was not examined for 11 years, and inspectors faked records, pretending to make thorough inspections when in fact they were only cursory, Tepco said.
It also said that inspections, which are voluntary, did not cover other devices related to cooling systems, including water pump motors and diesel generators.
The report was submitted after the regulator ordered operators to examine whether inspections were suitably thorough.
”Long-term inspection plans and maintenance management were inadequate,” the nuclear safety agency concluded in a follow-up report two days after Tepco’s admission.
”The quality of inspection was insufficient.”
The safety agency ordered the operator draw up a corrective plan by June 2.
But on March 11 the magnitude 9 earthquake unleashed a 10-metre tsunami, knocking out back-up generators hooked to the plant’s cooling system aimed at keeping fuel rods from overheating and releasing dangerous radiation.
A nuclear safety agency official who declined to be named said: ”We can’t say that the lapses listed in the [February 28] report did not have an influence on the chain of events leading to this crisis……
Firefighters, police officers and troops are hosing the damaged reactors in a desperate bid to stop them overheating, and trying to restore electricity that would get the cooling systems running again.
Images of the exploding plant triggered global alarm, but for many in Japan, Tepco’s track record of safety issues and attempts to cover them up add to suspicion over a flow of opaque, erratic information about Fukushima.
In 2002 Tepco admitted falsifying safety reports, which led to all 17 of its boiling-water reactors being shut down for inspection, including Fukushima.
The revelation forced the then Tepco chairman and president to resign.
And in an eerily familiar event, a 2007 earthquake paralysed its Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear plant – the world’s biggest – and more radiation leaked than Tepco initially acknowledged.
Tepco later said it underestimated the potential impact of an earthquake on the plant.
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