Crisis probe has quizzed 126 people

by Kazuaki Nagata

Staff Writer

Some 126 people have appeared before the independent panel investigating the causes of the Fukushima nuclear crisis, testifying for a total of almost 300 hours, but it will take more time and effort to identify the root reasons for the accident, panel leader Yotaro Hatamura said Tuesday.

While Hatamura avoided giving much in the way of details about the hearings, such as specific questions asked and where the sessions have been held, he did say panel teams divided by topic have been holding hearings from various viewpoints, including tsunami measures at the Fukushima No. 1 plant, the evacuation procedures in the area surrounding the facility and how Tokyo Electric Power Co. handled the accident.

He said people who have participated in the hearings include employees at the plant and regulatory officials.

Hatamura said the committee, which was set up by the government in May, has held four sessions for a total of 19 hours with Masao Yoshida, director of the Fukushima No. 1 plant.

“I myself attended the director’s sessions twice. I though he was answering all of our questions honestly,” Hatamura, a professor emeritus at the University of Tokyo, told a news conference at the Cabinet Office.

The panel asked Yoshida to explain what happened to reactors 1 through 4 after the quake and his views on fuel rod damage as well as the cooling systems, ventilation and hydrogen explosions.

Hatamura acknowledged that there have been some findings that the media have not reported but said it is too early to determine precisely what went wrong.

The panel aims to draft a midterm report in December.