• Kyodo

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Tokyo Electric Power Co. started checking Tuesday for cracks in the core shroud of a reactor at its Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant here.

The inspection is the first to be undertaken by the nation’s biggest power utility since August, when it became embroiled in allegations that it concealed damage at its reactors in Fukushima and Niigata prefectures.

The inspectors used an underwater camera to check for cracks and scars in the welded part of the shroud covering the No. 4 reactor. They were observed by inspectors from the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency, in accordance with the nuclear reactor law, and officials from the towns of Futaba and Okuma, who supervise the plant.

The inspection is expected to continue until late October.

Ahead of Tuesday’s inspections, Fumio Murata of the Fukushima Prefecture’s nuclear safety division called on Tepco officials to cooperate, stating that working together with local communities is a necessary part of operating nuclear reactors.

In response, plant head Kazuhiro Matsumura apologized over the concerns prompted by the latest scandal and vowed to cooperate fully with the probe.

Tepco shut down the reactor Sept. 16 after it was discovered that the utility failed to report shroud damage to the national government.

Tepco is suspected of violating the Electric Utility Law by failing to replace core shrouds in five reactors at its two plants in Fukushima Prefecture in the 1990s, despite having discovered the cracks two to five years earlier.

Tepco is also suspected of violating the Nuclear Reactor Regulation Law in connection with cracks in the steam dryer of the No. 1 reactor at Fukushima No. 1.

The utility allegedly instructed that footage showing the cracks be edited out of a videotape. Tepco denied the allegations and said the videotape no longer exists.

On Sept. 17, Tepco Chairman Hiroshi Araki and President Nobuya Minami said they would resign to take blame for the coverups and punish 33 executives and senior officials at the company.

In announcing the punishments, Tepco released an in-house report on its investigation into 29 coverups and admitted that 16 of them, including those involving defective areas, were unacceptable in light of “social common sense.”

On Friday, Tepco revealed eight more coverups of nuclear plant damage.

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