Tokyo Electric Power Co. said Monday it has found several new spots in the core shroud of one of its reactors in Fukushima Prefecture that may have cracks.

The suspected locations are in the shroud of the No. 4 reactor of its Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant, Tepco officials said.

The announcement is part of Tepco’s ongoing inspection of the reactor, which started Sept. 24, following allegations in August that the nation’s biggest power utility concealed damage at reactors in Fukushima and Niigata prefectures.

The inspection of the No. 4 reactor is expected to continue until late October. The reactor has been dormant since mid-September, when reports emerged that shroud damage had been concealed from the national government.

Top Tepco officials, including Chairman Hiroshi Araki and President Nobuya Minami, have said they will step down to take responsibility for the fiasco.

Disaster drill smaller

MITO, Ibaraki Pref. (Kyodo) A nuclear disaster drill was held Monday for the first time involving a newly established off-site center in Hitachinaka, Ibaraki Prefecture, to mark the third anniversary of the nation’s worst nuclear disaster.

The drill involved some 600 people, including roughly 100 local residents and about 60 organizations. It was much smaller compared with last year’s drill, which involved about 3,000 people, prefectural officials said.

The village of Tokai, Ibaraki Prefecture, became the site of the nation’s worst nuclear accident when workers at a uranium processing facility accidentally started a fission chain reaction by taking a shortcut in procedure. The criticality accident killed two workers and exposed about 600 others to abnormal amounts of radiation.

Monday’s drill was based on the assumption of an accident occurring at the experimental Joyo fast-breeder reactor, which is operated by the governmental Japan Nuclear Cycle Development Center in Oarai. The scenario involved a possible release of radioactive material from the facility.

The drill began at 9 a.m., after which national and prefectural officials assembled at the off-site center.