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Tepco to set up independent office to oversee own nuclear safety efforts

Kyodo

Tokyo Electric Power Co. said Friday that it will set up an office to independently oversee its nuclear safety efforts and actively communicate with the public about the risks associated with atomic power.

The measures were announced as part of a plan to reform Tepco’s nuclear division, which failed to prevent the March 2011 triple meltdowns at the utility’s Fukushima No. 1 atomic complex, triggering the world’s worst nuclear crisis since Chernobyl.

Tepco also admitted that it should not simply blame natural disasters for triggering the Fukushima disaster because of the difficulty of predicting the huge tsunami that laid waste to the plant.

“We need to sincerely accept that we were not able to prevent an accident that should have been averted by making (the necessary) preparations,” Tepco said.

Under the reform plan, the utility will create a nuclear safety oversight office by September that will operate outside of the nuclear division and report directly to the board of directors.

The office will be headed by an appointee recruited externally.

In addition, a social communication office, also to be led by an external appointee, will be created to collect and analyze data related to the risks of nuclear power and to promote better communication with the public.

The plan was compiled with the involvement of a supervisory panel of domestic and overseas experts, including former U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission Chairman Dale Klein and former British Atomic Energy Authority Chairwoman Barbara Judge.

At a meeting on the issue with Tepco officials, Klein said the plan demonstrates the utility’s “desire to reform” but noted that it is just a starting point.

Judge, meanwhile, said she hopes Tepco will become a company with “the best safety culture in the industry.”