Government inspectors completed a two-day probe Sunday into the inspection records of nuclear power plants operated by three utilities embroiled in coverup scandals.

The inspectors from the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency began the on-site investigations Saturday, examining the records of Tokyo Electric Power Co., Chubu Electric Power Co. and Tohoku Electric Power Co. The agency is part of the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry.

Of the four plants covered, five were inspected Saturday, with that day’s work ending at Tepco’s Fukushima No. 2 plant in Fukushima Prefecture.

The agency said the inspectors obtained more than 10 records at each of the plants and questioned power company officials at each location concerning the reported coverups.

The inspectors will compare the records with those to be submitted by Toshiba Corp. and Hitachi Ltd., which have been commissioned by the utilities to conduct voluntary in-house inspections.

The five nuclear plants subject to the probes are in Fukushima, Miyagi, Shizuoka and Niigata prefectures.

An inspector who checked Tepco’s Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant in Niigata Prefecture said, “We have found no falsified portions in the records so far, but it seems that reports on cracks did not go above the plant’s section in charge.”

A inspector in charge of Tohoku Electric Power’s Onagawa plant in Miyagi Prefecture said, “We have no impression so far that there were clear wrongdoings.”

The agency is trying to get to the bottom of alleged coverups of damage to pipes that carry primary cooling water in boiling-water reactors. It wants to know if power companies tend to hide reactor-related problems, and if so, why, they said.

Government inspectors rarely conduct simultaneous on-site investigations at nuclear power plants of different power utilities.

The three utilities earlier acknowledged failing to report reactor cracks to the government despite learning of the damage during regular in-house checks.

Tepco said Friday it has found cracks in eight of its nuclear reactors at the Fukushima No. 1 and No. 2 nuclear power plants, as well as the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant. Each of the eight reactors had two to 12 cracked pipes.

Chubu Electric Power said Friday it has found a total of nine cracks in two reactors at the Hamaoka nuclear plant in Shizuoka Prefecture.

Also on Friday, Tohoku Electric Power acknowledged finding four cracks in a nuclear reactor at the Onagawa nuclear power plant in Miyagi Prefecture.

The cracked pipes are potentially more serious than the cracked reactor shrouds that were at the center of many of the earlier cases of damage disclosed at nuclear reactors. In the earlier cases, Tepco acknowledged having falsified reports.

Tohoku Electric Power supplies power in the Tohoku region while Chubu Electric Power serves Aichi, Nagano, Yamanashi and other prefectures in central Japan.

In a time of both misinformation and too much information, quality journalism is more crucial than ever.
By subscribing, you can help us get the story right.