Independent panel created to probe cause of crisis

by Masami Ito

Staff Writer

The government established an independent panel Tuesday to probe the cause of the nuclear crisis with the aim of preventing future disasters and coming up with proposals for limiting the damage at the Fukushima No. 1 plant.

The panel “must look at the Fukushima nuclear plant accident through the eyes of the public, conducting an all-out investigation openly and independently, and announce the results to the people of Japan as well as to the world,” said Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshito Sengoku.

The committee, to be headed by University of Tokyo professor emeritus Yotaro Hatamura, will have the authority to question officials at Tokyo Electric Power Co., which operates the plant, government officials and Cabinet ministers including Prime Minister Naoto Kan himself.

Ministers and other officials “must give full cooperation to the management of the panel and can’t refuse requests to submit documents or attend hearings without a justifiable reason,” according to a written statement issued by the government.

The panel is expected to put together an interim report in December and a final report by the following summer.

Hatamura, 70, has participated in probes of other high-profile accidents, including the JR West Fukuchiyama Line derailment in Hyogo Prefecture in 2005 that killed 107 people and the death of a 6-year-old boy killed in a revolving door at Roppongi Hills in Tokyo in 2004.