Nuke crisis panel to question hundreds of people


An independent panel investigating the causes of the nuclear crisis at the Fukushima No. 1 power plant plans to hear from several hundred people.

Panel head Yotaro Hatamura, who researches human error, said during the second gathering of panel members Friday that intensive investigations will be carried out until the next meeting, scheduled for Sept. 27.

He also said some hearings may be open to the public if the people involved agree, including public figures such as senior officials from the government and Tokyo Electric Power Co.

During Friday’s meeting, the panel decided to set up three teams to look at the crisis from different angles. They will analyze the situation before the crisis, the causes of the crisis, and steps taken after the crisis to prevent the damage from spreading.

The panel plans to compile a midterm report of its findings by the end of the year.

The six-reactor complex lost nearly all of its power sources when it was hit by the magnitude 9.0 quake and massive tsunami on March 11, knocking out the cooling functions of the reactors and spent nuclear fuel pools at units 1 through 4.

Goshi Hosono, the state minister in charge of handling the nuclear crisis, said the utility is likely to accomplish “step one” — stable cooling of the crippled reactors — by mid-July, as planned.

“Through the efforts of the workers there, the goal will be achieved,” Hosono said in an interview.

Tepco’s “road map” for bringing the crisis under control calls for stable cooling to be achieved by July 17. Hosono said the government and Tepco hope to announce an updated version of the road map on July 19.

Under the current plan, Tepco wants to achieve a cold shutdown of the reactors within three to six months after the first step is cleared.

Meanwhile, Tepco said the largest tsunami that hit the No. 1 plant is estimated to have been 13 meters high, measured at the plant’s tide station, and about 9 meters high at the Fukushima No. 2 plant, located about 10 km to the south. Earlier findings suggested the tsunami height was 14 to 15 meters above sea level at both plants.