Kan team caused unneeded chaos in disaster: Tepco

Kyodo

Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s draft investigation report on the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant disaster states that “unnecessary confusion” was fueled by interference from people at the prime minister’s office, sources said.

Because people at the office directly tried to question plant chief Masao Yoshida after the crisis started March 11, 2011, Yoshida had to divert his attention from dealing with the rapidly worsening disaster and respond to the office, the sources said.

Such behavior “just put the plant chief in a dilemma and did not improve the outcome of efforts to address the accident,” the sources quoted the draft as saying.

The draft also touches on a phone call made March 12, the day after the crisis erupted, by then Prime Minister Naoto Kan, who heard from an acquaintance that the situation at the Fukushima plant could develop in a similar way to the 1979 accident at Unit 2 of the Three Mile Island nuclear plant in Pennsylvania that resulted in a partial meltdown of the reactor core.

But there was a “discrepancy” between Kan’s instructions and on-site conditions, the sources said.

Kan was also described by Yoshida as “running amok and yelling” when the prime minister visited Tepco’s Tokyo headquarters early on the morning of March 15, apparently outraged by what he believed was a proposal from the utility to withdraw all of its workers from the plant.

Yoshida was able to see the prime minister via the utility’s teleconference system for real-time information-sharing. Yoshida also said Kan was acting in an “extremely high-handed manner.”

Tepco reiterated in the draft report that it had no intention of abandoning the plant in the early days of the crisis and was only aiming for an “evacuation,” meaning workers needed to handle the emergency would remain and those not directly involved would leave.

The report says Tepco employees sought to bring the plant under control with a “determination to remain (at the site) even in a crisis situation” and not because Kan ordered them to stay.

Tepco plans to release the final report soon.