Tepco’s misstatements in probe ‘unintentional’

Kyodo

Tokyo Electric Power Co. did not intentionally provide erroneous information to a Diet-appointed committee tasked with investigating the 2011 meltdown crisis at its Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant, a third-party panel concluded Wednesday.

The panel was set up last month after media reports revealed a Tepco official had told an investigative committee member in February 2012 that the fourth floor of the building housing the crippled reactor 1 was in “complete darkness” — a claim that was not true — leading the committee to halt an on-site inspection.

According to the report, compiled by an independent panel of three lawyers, the Tepco official gave the incorrect explanation because he “misunderstood” the situation inside the reactor building.

The report also denied that the official was ordered by his superiors to provide such information.

“It would not have made sense to lie about something that would be exposed right away if (committee members) visited the site,” the report said. “It would be unreasonable to determine that the official offered the erroneous explanation on purpose.”

The committee had placed importance on studying reactor 1 as part of efforts to shed light on whether any important equipment had sustained damage due to the March 11, 2011, earthquake, but before the ensuing subsequent ravaged the plant.

“Because of the erroneous explanation, (Tepco) interfered with the Diet’s activity to exercise its right to investigate state affairs,” the report said. “Tepco could have avoided the incident if it had (properly) trained the official negotiating with outside parties.”

Reactor 1 suffered a core meltdown and the building housing it was damaged by a hydrogen explosion in the early days of the nuclear crisis.

Tepco had installed a cover around the building to reduce the release of radioactive substances into the air, but sunlight was still able to penetrate the cover and lighting equipment was attached to it at the time Tepco made the explanation to the investigative committee.