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TEPCO sat by idly on reports of fires, glitches at nuclear plants

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Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s Fukushima No. 2 nuclear power plant

February 14, 2019
Tokyo Electric Power Co. ignored reports on fires and other problems from its nuclear power plants and didn’t even bother to share the information in-house or consider precautionary measures, the nuclear watchdog revealed.
The Nuclear Regulation Authority decided Feb. 13 it will investigate the failure by TEPCO’s headquarters to tackle the problems reported by its three facilities: the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear plant in Niigata Prefecture and the Fukushima No. 1 and No. 2 nuclear plants, both in Fukushima Prefecture.
A TEPCO official said that the company put off tackling the problems because the deadline for dealing with such matters “was not clearly stated.”
NRA safety inspectors visited the Fukushima No. 2 nuclear plant from November through December last year.
They found that the division at company headquarters in charge of dealing with safety issues and sharing that information neglected reports of four problems that had occurred at the plant.
They cited 17 cases at the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear plant; five cases at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant and seven problems at the headquarters itself.

February 18, 2019 Posted by | Japan | , | Leave a comment

Former worker’s book: TEPCO unfit to operate nuclear plants

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Toru Hasuike, a former employee of Tokyo Electric Power Co., talks about his new book in Kashiwazaki, Niigata Prefecture.
 
August 27, 2018
KASHIWAZAKI, Niigata Prefecture–Toru Hasuike, who worked at Tokyo Electric Power Co. for 32 years, has published another book that he says shows his former employer should be declared “ineligible” to operate nuclear power plants.
“Kokuhatsu” (Accusation), a 250-page book released on Aug. 27 by Tokyo-based Business-sha Inc., reveals episodes that underscore the utility’s culture of cover-ups and collusion, including how it stacked the decks in its favor for government approval of its new reactors, he said.
After graduating from the Tokyo University of Science, Hasuike, 63, had worked in TEPCO’s nuclear division, including a stint at the now-embattled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, from 1977 until he left the company in 2009.
His first book about the utility, titled “Watashi ga Aishita Tokyo Denryoku” (Tokyo Electric Power Co. that I loved), was released by Kyoto-based Kamogawa Co. in September 2011, a half-year after the disaster struck the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant.
In that book, Hasuike describes the day-to-day activities at TEPCO and the closed nature of the regional monopoly in a matter-of-fact tone. He does not accuse the company of cover-ups or collusion in the book.
“Back then, I believed that even TEPCO would transform itself (following the Fukushima nuclear disaster),” Hasuike said in an interview with The Asahi Shimbun in Kashiwazaki. “But TEPCO’s corporate culture of trying to cover up things and form collusive ties with authorities has not been overhauled. In my latest book, I wrote about all that I saw.”
Assigned to the utility’s main office in Tokyo, Hasuike, who had an engineering background, was primarily involved in work responding to nuclear regulators’ safety inspections of TEPCO’s plants as well as research into the disposal of high-level radioactive waste.
He said he documented a number of his experiences that epitomize the collusive ties between the utility and nuclear regulators before the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster.
Hasuike said these episodes made him question the feasibility of TEPCO’s new stated goal of pushing for organizational reform that puts safety management of its nuclear facilities above everything else.
Hasuike was born and raised in Kashiwazaki, Niigata Prefecture, a city that co-hosts TEPCO’s seven-reactor Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear plant, the largest nuclear power station in Japan.
His parents and other relatives live in the coastal city.
The Diet’s Fukushima Nuclear Accident Independent Investigation Commission also pointed out TEPCO’s propensity to seek cozy ties with regulating bodies.
In its report published in 2012, the commission denounced collusion between TEPCO and the government’s nuclear watchdog, describing nuclear authorities as a “regulatory capture” of the company because they were easily manipulated by TEPCO’s vast wealth of nuclear expertise.
In his new book, Hasuike describes, for example, TEPCO’s moves related to the No. 6 and No. 7 reactors at the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant.
The company is currently seeking to bring those reactors back online as soon as possible to save on fuel costs needed to operate its thermal plants.
Hasuike said in the book that TEPCO sent some of its employees to the then Science and Technology Agency in 1990 on the pretext of “assisting in preparations” for a public hearing planned by the government’s Nuclear Safety Commission.
The agency’s commission was scheduled to hold a public hearing at the Niigata prefectural government building on whether to give approval and licenses for the construction of the No. 6 and No. 7 reactors at the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant.
The TEPCO employees were sent to the agency, where the commission’s secretariat was located, to check postcards sent by those hoping to attend the hearing. Specifically, TEPCO wanted to know their stance on nuclear energy and prevent the hearing from being dominated by anti-nuclear attendees, according to the book.
When they grasped the number of nuclear opponents who planned to attend, the TEPCO employees made arrangements to send several times that number of application postcards to the pro-nuclear energy camp to ensure their representation was larger than nuclear skeptics at the hearing, Hasuike wrote.
After the applicants were selected and those permitted to ask questions at the hearing were chosen, the TEPCO employees advised the pro-nuclear attendees on their proposed questions with the aim to make the plant look safe, according to the book.
Hasuike has also been known as a relentless critic of the government for its handling of the decades-old issue of Japanese nationals abducted by North Korean agents. He has appeared on TV programs and written several books on the subject.
His younger brother, Kaoru, returned to Japan in 2002 after being abducted to North Korea in 1978. But many other abductees remain unaccounted for, and there are few signs of progress toward a resolution of the issue.

August 28, 2018 Posted by | Japan | , , | Leave a comment

Anti-tsunami policy shift key to criminal trial of ex-TEPCO execs

march 11 2017 tsunami at daiichi.jpgIn this March 11, 2011 file photo, waves are seen washing over a 10-meter-high breakwater and approaching the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant

 

The key point of contention in the criminal trial of former top Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO) executives over the 2011 nuclear crisis will likely be their decisions on tsunami prevention measures after the utility itself estimated in 2008 that tsunami with a maximum height of 15.7 meters could hit its Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant.

Former TEPCO Chairman Tsunehisa Katsumata and former vice presidents Ichiro Takekuro and Sakae Muto were slapped with mandatory indictments by lay reviewers after public prosecutors twice decided not to press charges. Their trial began on June 30, when all three pleaded not guilty and emphasized that it was impossible for management to predict the nuclear accident.

In his opening statement, lawyer Hiroshi Kamiyama, who has been appointed prosecutor by the court, slammed the TEPCO ex-managers, saying, “After TEPCO learned that over 10-meter-tall tsunami could hit the plant, the company put off countermeasures and irresponsibly continued to operate the facility as-was.”

The key question in the nuclear crisis investigation had been whether the 2002 long-term assessment report by the government’s Headquarters for Earthquake Research Promotion stating that massive tsunami could occur off the Pacific Coast from the Sanriku to the Boso areas, was sufficiently credible to require TEPCO to implement countermeasures. The Tokyo District Public Prosecutors Office in September 2013 dropped a criminal case against the former TEPCO management, arguing that the assessment was “not academically developed enough.”

In response, Kamiya and other court-appointed attorneys argued during the June 30 hearing that those in charge of nuclear power facility management in fact tried to map out tsunami countermeasures based on the 2002 assessment, but TEPCO as a company put off implementing them.

Based on the government’s 2002 assessment, a TEPCO-affiliated company in March 2008 reported to the utility headquarters that tsunami with a maximum height of 15.7 meters could strike the Fukushima No. 1 plant. TEPCO officials at the nuclear power facility management department immediately ordered the affiliated firm to determine how tall a levee was required to prevent flooding of the plant, which stands 10 meters above sea level. The firm reported that a 10-meter-tall seawall would be necessary.

These figures were then reported to then Fukushima plant chief Masao Yoshida and then vice president Muto, who was in charge of the matter at the time. Muto, however, asked the Japan Society of Civil Engineers to re-evaluate the tsunami height estimates, and shelved countermeasures at TEPCO facilities as a whole.

The prosecution also pointed out that this “policy shift” continued to be debated within the utility. A note saying “tsunami prevention measures cannot be avoided” was circulated at a September 2008 meeting, and Yoshida told a February 2009 executive meeting — attended by the three defendants — that “some say tsunami of about 14 meters tall could hit the plant.”

However, lawyers for the former executives argued that contrary to the prosecution’s assertion of “a policy shift” in tsunami countermeasures, TEPCO had not set a particular policy to begin with. They insisted that the 15.7-meter tsunami estimate was a “trial calculation,” squarely denying the prosecution’s argument. Amid this clash, witness testimony on how the matter was understood within the utility’s ranks will be key.

Parties related to civil lawsuits over the nuclear crisis are paying close attention to the criminal trial, as many major points of dispute overlap.

The Maebashi District Court in March handed down the first ruling of the roughly 30 class action law suits filed by nuclear evacuees and other parties, in which the court acknowledged the liability of both TEPCO and the Japanese government. The Chiba and Fukushima district courts are expected to hand down rulings in other civil cases by the end of the year.

Lawyer Hideaki Omori, co-head of the legal team representing those affected by the Fukushima nuclear meltdowns, says that many details have yet to be uncovered, such as what discussions were held within TEPCO over tsunami countermeasures. He adds, “While criminal trials look into individual responsibility, the responsibility of the three defendants, who were at the center of the organization, is equivalent to that of TEPCO.”

TEPCO declined to comment on the criminal trial.

http://mainichi.jp/english/articles/20170701/p2a/00m/0na/031000c

July 3, 2017 Posted by | Fukushima 2017 | , , , , | Leave a comment

Fukushima trial should clarify why TEPCO execs didn’t act

protecting sea walls july 1 2017.jpgAn artist’s concept of seawalls to protect the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant from tsunami

 

The first criminal trial over the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster is now under way, drawing fresh attention to key questions concerning the devastating accident and its lasting reverberations.

The focus of public attention will be on whether the reams of evidence collected by public prosecutors, along with statements by those in charge, will provide a clearer picture of how the disaster unfolded.

Three former executives of Tokyo Electric Power Co., which operated the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, pleaded innocent June 30 in the first hearing held at the Tokyo District Court.

They are charged with professional negligence resulting in the deaths of 44 people who had to be evacuated from a hospital near the plant, and injuries of others.

While the Tokyo District Public Prosecutors Office twice decided not to press charges against the three, citing a lack of evidence, independent judicial panels of citizens voted for mandatory indictments against them.

The core question for the trial judge is whether it was possible for them to predict the towering tsunami that inundated the plant, triggering a triple meltdown, and take effective safety measures to prevent the catastrophe.

In his opening statement, the lawyer acting as a prosecutor asserted that the three former TEPCO executives had the “ultimate obligation and responsibility” to ensure the safety of the nuclear facility.

He cited a 2008 estimate by a TEPCO subsidiary involved in the operation of the Fukushima plant that pointed to the “shocking” possibility of the plant being struck by tsunami of up to 15.7 meters. The TEPCO officials proposed that measures be taken to protect the plant from such a tsunami, including the construction of a seawall, but the three executives decided to postpone taking such steps.

The defense team countered by reiterating its argument that it was merely one of many estimates and constitutes no reason to claim that the defendants were able to predict and avoid the accident.

In 2002, a government agency warned that a massive earthquake capable of generating huge tsunami could occur anywhere off the Pacific coast from the northern Sanriku region in Tohoku down to the Boso region in Chiba Prefecture.

The huge 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami caused damage to nuclear power facilities in India.

Japanese nuclear regulators at that time called for steps to enhance the safety of nuclear power plants.

Six years since the harrowing accident, there are still many questions that remain unanswered with regard to TEPCO’s responses to these warnings and developments. How seriously did the utility consider additional safety measures? What steps did the company actually take and fail to take? What are the reasons for its decisions?

There is no denying that most of the TEPCO people involved have done little to help clear up the facts. Their behavior has been marked by insincerity.

The three defendants were summoned by the Diet’s committee that looked into the accident as unsworn witnesses and answered various questions in public.

After that, however, they showed no willingness to offer their own accounts of what happened.

Like many other TEPCO executives, the three defendants have, to this day, refused to agree to their statements made in interviews by the government’s investigative committee to be made public.

Criminal trials are held to determine whether the defendants should be held criminally liable.

The rights of the defendants provided by the Constitution and the Criminal Procedure Law should, naturally, be respected. That means there is a limit to what a criminal court can do to clear up the truth.

While recognizing the limitations of what a criminal trial can achieve, we sincerely hope it will shed new light on the accident.

This hope is obviously shared by not just the survivors who have lost their families and hometowns in the accident but also countless others who were affected by the disaster.

The defendants have a duty to help disclose the truth.

In addition to determining whether or not the defendants are guilty of professional negligence, the trial offers an opportunity to reflect deeply on some key questions concerning nuclear power and the related roles of electric utilities and the government; for example, can the safety of nuclear plants be ensured and is there really a viable future for nuclear power generation in this earthquake-prone nation.

http://www.asahi.com/ajw/articles/AJ201707010022.html

July 1, 2017 Posted by | Fukushima 2017 | , , , , , | 1 Comment