Directive slapped on Tepco over coverups

Industry minister Takeo Hiranuma on Tuesday issued an administrative directive to Tokyo Electric Power Co. over the utility’s concealment of nuclear plant faults and its failure to set up an in-house system to secure the safe operation of its reactors.

The directive, under which the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry will take administrative measures such as ordering Tepco to cooperate with more stringent government inspections, was issued to penalize Tepco for causing public distrust of nuclear power.

The administrative orders were widely viewed as an effort to ease public criticism of regulators connected to the case.

The agency has already said it will not file criminal charges against the nation’s largest power utility over the six most serious cases of deception regarding cracks in reactor core shrouds, stating that there is a lack of sufficient evidence to prove that it violated laws governing nuclear reactor operations.

To beef up its own nuclear safety procedures, the METI-affiliated Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency will not only check designated facilities and equipment in its annual inspections but will also scrutinize the results of checks carried out by Tepco.

It will also go over previous maintenance and repair records relating to the facilities, agency officials said.

“We must take solid administrative measures,” Hiranuma, who oversees the agency, told a regular news conference Tuesday morning.

The administrative steps outlined Tuesday will remain in effect until the agency confirms that Tepco has taken appropriate action to ensure that there is no recurrence of the coverup scandal, agency officials said.

Tepco has also been told to submit a report on its progress toward establishing prevention measures by the end of March.

Regarding other cracks found in coolant water piping at Tepco reactors, the agency believes the utility should have reported the cracks, although no evidence of information concealment has been identified in relation to these defects, the officials said.