Just days before the Great East Japan Earthquake, a government panel softened the wording of a report warning that a massive tsunami could strike northeastern Japan after three utilities with nuclear power plants begged it to do so, it has been learned.
According to interviews and documents made available Saturday, staff from Tokyo Electric Power Co., Tohoku Electric Power Co. and Japan Atomic Power Co. asked the secretariat of the Earthquake Research Committee to alter the draft of the report at a meeting on March 3, 2011.
The report suggested a massive tsunami similar to the one triggered by the Jogan Earthquake in 869 could be spawned off Miyagi and Fukushima prefectures, they said. The Jogan quake had an estimated magnitude of 8.3 and killed about 1,000 people.
A final version of the report has yet to be released in light of the earthquake and tsunami that actually hit the region eight days later, but some members of the committee called the revelation “unbelievable.”
The three utilities asked the secretariat in the Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Ministry to change the wording to avoid giving people the “misunderstanding” that massive quakes similar to the Jogan quake actually occurred in the past.
In reply, the secretariat told the three utilities, “We’re not changing the context but we’re going to do something so it may not induce such misunderstanding.”
A few days later the ministry revised the draft. The reworded version said “further study” is required to decide if massive quakes similar to the Jogan quake took place because “appropriate data are insufficient.”
Mayors snub ministers
A meeting between the government and municipalities near the crippled Fukushima No. 1 power plant was canceled Sunday after three mayors boycotted it because the government allegedly told the media of the specifics of the meeting before telling them.
Futaba Mayor Katsutaka Idogawa said: “I strongly mistrust the government . . . So I have made a momentous decision not to attend the meeting” with Environment Minister Goshi Hosono and Tatsuo Hirano, minister in charge of reconstruction from the March 2011 disasters.
The mayors of the towns of Hirono and Namie followed suit.
The leaders of eight towns and villages, including Futaba, Hirono and Namie, were expected to discuss how to eliminate radioactive materials leaked by the plant and explore ways to build temporary storage facilities for contaminated soil.