Tepco suspends Fukushima No. 1 cleanup to probe fatal accidents


Staff Writer

Tokyo Electric Power Co. has said it will suspend decommissioning work at the wrecked Fukushima No. 1 power plant until it completes safety checks related to two fatal accidents at its facilities in the prefecture this week.

“The most important thing is to thoroughly conduct safety checks,” Tepco spokesman Shinichi Kawamura told a news conference in Fukushima on Thursday.

Decommissioning the crippled plant involves many processes, but “we can’t tell when we will finish the checks for all work at this point,” Kawamura said, although he added that it wasn’t expected to take weeks.

On Monday, a 55-year-old subcontractor hired to work at the Fukushima No. 1 plant fell into an empty 10-meter-deep water tank during an inspection. He was taken to a hospital but died the following day. Although the man was wearing a safety belt, he did not appear to be using it at the time.

On Tuesday, a subcontractor in his 40s died at the nearby Fukushima No. 2 plant after his head was crushed by an object during a concentrator inspection. The object was supposed to be held in place by a crane.

Kawamura said Tepco wants to pinpoint potentially unsafe places at the site, improve employee safety habits and ensure the procedures they are performing are safe.

For instance, Tepco will check whether adequate safety steps are being taken when handling heavy objects.

Since decommissioning work often requires the use of special industrial tools, workers must follow the required procedures to ensure their safety, Kawamura said.

The suspension will not affect fuel-cooling and water-filtering operations, the utility said.