Tepco’s self-justifying report

Tokyo Electric Power Co. on June 20 released its final report on the disaster at its Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant. Tepco stated that the main cause of the accidents was the enormous scale of the tsunami that hit the plant, saying that it was beyond its expectations.

The report basically stated that, looking back, Tepco was not careful enough in assuming the scale of the tsunami and that its preparedness was insufficient.

But what is conspicuous in the report is Tepco’s attempt to evade its responsibility for the catastrophe and to minimize legal risks in compensating nuclear crisis victims and in dealing with lawsuits over the disaster.

In 2008, Tepco estimated that a 15.7-meter tsunami could hit the plant on the basis of a 2002 report from the education ministry’s earthquake panel, but it took no specific preventative measures. Gambling that such a tsunami would not occur, it did not revise its 2002 estimate that at maximum a 5.7-meter tsunami could possibly strike.

The report shifted the responsibility to the government by saying that no government organizations had expected such a tsunami, and that when Tepco explained its 2008 study to the trade and industry ministry’s Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency four days before the disaster, NISA did not issue any instructions.

Tepco also criticized top politicians in the prime minister’s office for interfering in the early stages of the accidents and blamed them for deepening the chaos.

As expected, the report said that the quake did not affect the plant’s functions. But it is difficult to believe that the complex pipe systems at the nuclear power plant could escape damage in such a massive quake, and, in fact, some plant workers reportedly saw evidence of broken piping before the tsunami struck.

The government committee probing the disaster said in its December 2011 interim report that Tepco workers were unfamiliar with the No. 1 reactor’s isolation condenser and the No. 3 reactor’s high pressure coolant injection system — both used for cooling reactor cores in an emergency — and were slow in properly activating them. But in its report, Tepco merely stated that it did not think that the delay in the equipment’s activation affected subsequent effort to cope with the accidents.

More than 160,000 people remain evacuees due to the nuclear crisis. It is also believed that many of them will not be able to return to their homes even after 10 years. One wonders whether Tepco is really aware of its responsibility for such consequences.

On the grounds of protecting privacy, the Tepco report did not disclose the contents of electronic recordings of TV meetings between officials at Tepco headquarters and officials at the Fukushima plant. Tepco is evading its basic responsibility to disclose the true picture of the nuclear catastrophe. At minimum it has a duty to disclose all information pertaining to the disaster.