Tokyo Electric Power Co. waited too long to announce that radioactive groundwater from Fukushima No. 1 is reaching the Pacific Ocean, President Naomi Hirose admitted Friday.
He said three top officials, including himself, will have their pay cut for the error.
Tepco didn’t officially confirm until Monday that radioactive groundwater reached the sea, even though the utility found high levels of radiation in well samples near the ocean in mid-June.
The Nuclear Regulation Authority also pointed out July 10 that contaminated groundwater appeared to be reaching the sea.
Hirose said at a news conference that Tepco had been worried about making an announcement of such magnitude based on conjecture, so it waited until the data could be carefully confirmed.
He vowed to improve Tepco’s public relations, saying “even if the evaluations do not show enough evidence, we will swiftly and honestly mention risks and worst-case scenarios without fearing the impact.”
Experts Friday were quick to slam Tepco for failing to properly handle the leakage or disclose the information.
It gives the impression of “a lack of ability of keeping the people of Japan informed, and it brings into a question whether Tepco has a plan and it’s doing all they can to protect the environment and the people,” said Dale Klein, a former chairman of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission who now leads a team overseeing reform efforts in Tepco’s nuclear division, in the Friday news conference.
Hirose and Vice President Zengo Aizawa will take a 10 percent pay cut for one month, while the deputy director of the social communications office, Shinichiro Kengaku, will have his salary cut by 5 percent for one month.
The incident has also highlighted flaws in the flow of information within the utility.
Yoshiyuki Ishizaki, who heads Tepco’s Fukushima Revitalization Headquarters in Fukushima, said he received information that radioactive groundwater is apparently reaching the sea two days before the firm officially announced it.
“I came to know about it Saturday via information-sharing email within the company. It said we will have to make an announcement,” he told reporters Thursday.
But a Tepco spokesman said Friday that the public relations department doesn’t know anything about this email.