The president and chairman of Tokyo Electric Power Company are likely to step down to take responsibility for a scandal involving false reports on inspections and repairs at the company’s nuclear power plants, sources said Saturday.
Formal announcements of the resignations are expected in mid-September, when Tepco reveals the results of an internal investigation into the affair. Sources added that more heads may roll should the scandal turn into a criminal case.
Tepco, the nation’s largest utility, is suspected of concealing 29 cases of damage at three nuclear power plants during the 1980s and 1990s. The most serious damage involved cracks in nuclear reactor shrouds. The other cases are not considered to pose safety risks.
Tepco President Nobuya Minami and Chairman Hiroshi Araki will also resign their posts at various business and industry organizations, according to sources.
Araki is a vice chairman of the Japan Business Federation (Nippon Keidanren), while Minami serves as chairman of the Federation of Electric Power Companies and is a vice chairman of the Japan Association of Corporate Executives (Keizai Doyukai).
Tepco advisers Gaishi Hiraiwa and Sho Nasu, who headed the firm during the suspected coverups, will also step down from their posts, the sources added.
The firm is now moving to have Tsunehisa Katsumata succeed Minami as president. Katsumata is one of Tepco’s five vice presidents and is currently head of an in-house investigation into the scandal.
Minami assumed his post in June 1999 with the expectation that he would revamp Tepco to better prepare the firm for the liberalization of the electric power industry.
Observers said Tepco probably decided on the personnel changes because of the harsh public reaction to recent corporate scandals, including the mislabeling of beef by a subsidiary of Nippon Meat Packers Inc.
Immediately after the Tepco fiasco came to light, Minami said he would consider what form of responsibility to take once all the facts were known.
His departure became more likely, however, after it became increasingly clear that Tepco employees directly ordered the falsification of records, sources said.
The government has also expressed its dissatisfaction with the company.
It was also learned Saturday that Tepco employees may not have placed enough importance on cracks found at its nuclear facilities during inspections.
The employees apparently believed there was no need to repair the damage and did not report the problem. They based their decision on similar cases abroad that had not been considered dangerous, sources said.
Cracks are usually caused by decay and stress. A number of similar problems have been reported in the United States and Europe since the 1990s.
Cracked shrouds are usually replaced in Japan. In the U.S. and Europe, however, they are often mended, or left alone if the damage is not considered dangerous, the sources said.
The Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency at the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry plans to investigate the suspected coverup when it begins inspecting the three Tepco plants on Monday.
The investigation is to cover the Fukushima No. 1 and No. 2 plants and the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa facility — one of the world’s largest nuclear power plants.
TEPCO and its subcontractor may have acted illegally in their alleged failure to report the damage, according to the agency.
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