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After concluding its inspections of facilities operated by Tokyo Electric Power Co., the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency suggested Friday that top Tepco officials were not involved in a systematic coverup of structural problems at the firm’s nuclear plants.

Following an investigation of Tepco’s headquarters in Chiyoda Ward, Tokyo, Yasuhisa Komoda, deputy director general in charge of nuclear safety and nuclear fuel recycling policy, brushed aside speculation that the company had systematically covered up these problems.

“I had an impression that officials at the head office were hardly aware of the incidents, as Tepco currently gives considerable authority to power plants over their operations,” Komoda said.

It is the first time regulatory authorities have inspected Tepco’s head office in connection with its nuclear power business, according to company officials.

Komoda and 15 other agency officials carried out the inspection of the nation’s largest utility firm. The daylong probe included interviewing top officials in charge of nuclear power and examining relevant documents.

The investigation was carried out in accordance with the Electric Utility Law and the Nuclear Reactor Regulation Law.

The inspection team arrived at the office around 8:30 a.m. and began work 10 minutes later.

On the Tepco side, Executive Vice President Toshiaki Enomono and 30 senior officials received the government investigators.

The agency, affiliated with the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry, conducted inspections Monday through Wednesday at the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant in Niigata Prefecture and the Fukushima No. 1 and No. 2 plants in Fukushima Prefecture.

Tepco earlier gave the agency a list of 29 possibly false inspection reports dating from the late 1980s to the 1990s and concerning 13 of the 17 reactors at the three plants. It later admitted falsifying records.

Among the problems allegedly covered up were reactor shroud cracks. In other reports, Tepco officials were quoted as saying two reactors have been shut down so safety checks can be carried out and three more will be shut down by the end of October.

Panel to mull coverups

A new panel at the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry will hold its first meeting next week to address the issue of coverups at nuclear facilities, METI Minister Takeo Hiranuma said Friday.

The move comes after it was revealed last week that Tokyo Electric Power Co. covered up damage at its nuclear plants.

The panel, under the nuclear safety division of the ministry’s standing advisory panel on natural resources and energy, will be headed by University of Tokyo Professor Shunsuke Kondo, a leading expert in nuclear technology, Hiranuma said.

METI expects the panel to compile an interim report by the end of this month.

Following the report, the ministry may propose revising the Electric Utility Law and the Nuclear Reactor Regulation Law in the upcoming Diet session planned for the fall, he said.

The ministry also plans to set up another panel under the direct control of the minister to check the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency’s investigation into Tepco, Hiranuma said.

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