Kepco faces another police search

Kyodo

Police said Monday they will search a Kansai Electric Power Co. branch office in Fukui Prefecture as part of their investigation into a deadly nuclear power plant accident in August, investigative sources said.

The search for evidence backing up the utility’s alleged professional negligence resulting in death is expected to take two days, the sources said.

Fukui Prefectural Police plan to examine documents to determine if company officials were responsible for failing to check a coolant water pipe at the Mihama Nuclear Power Plant for nearly 28 years until it corroded and ruptured Aug. 9, blowing out superheated steam.

Five workers were killed and seven others were hurt in the accident at the Mihama No. 3 reactor. The workers had been doing preparation work for regular checks of the reactor.

Kepco is suspected of failing to conduct checks even after Nihon Arm Co., its affiliate overseeing maintenance of the utility’s power plants, warned it in November 2003 that the pipe had been overlooked during annual inspections.

To determine the exact date of when Nihon Arm had notified the utility about the danger, police will search Kansai Electric’s Wakasa branch office in Mihama, which oversees operations at the company’s 11 nuclear reactors in Fukui Prefecture.

Another search was conducted earlier this month when police sent about 150 officers to offices of the two companies inside the plant.