Industry minister Takeo Hiranuma on Friday reprimanded the chief of the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency and five other officials after the agency admitted it leaked to Tokyo Electric Power Co. the identity of a Tepco-related worker who blew the whistle on the company’s coverups of nuclear plant faults.
Hiranuma also said he will return one-fifth of his monthly salary for two months to take the blame for the agency having failed to disclose the scandal for more than two years.
Yoshihiko Sasaki, the agency chief, was reprimanded under the National Public Service Law and has offered to return 10 percent of one month’s salary. The other four agency and Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry officials received lighter admonishments.
Another official, who is now on loan to the Defense Agency, will be punished in a similar fashion, Hiranuma said, adding that METI has no discretion to censure retired officials.
The agency, which operates under METI, admitted having leaked the name during a meeting of a ministry panel tasked with compiling a draft interim report on the matter.
The report slams the agency for taking more than two years to expose the coverup.
“Our explanation might have been misleading,” remarked an agency official, retracting the agency’s earlier denial that it had given Tepco the whistle-blower’s name.
The incident is expected to provoke further criticism of a system in which an agency affiliated with the ministry that promotes nuclear power is in charge of monitoring the industry’s safety procedures.
The whistle-blower’s tipoff led to revelations that Tepco had falsified reports regarding multiple fractures found in a large number of reactors.
It was alleged this week that Tepco also manipulated the way in which reactor containers were checked during government inspections.
In its draft report, the panel described the agency’s conduct in leaking the whistle-blower’s name as “hardly appropriate.” It said the agency should not have spent two years conducting a secret investigation before exposing the scandal in late August.
According to the panel, the agency wasted four months after the tipoff in July 2000 before ordering Tepco to investigate the allegations. It wasted a further eight months between December 2000 and August 2001 before convening an investigative committee.
The agency admitted it gave Tepco documents featuring the name and other personal information relating to the whistle-blower.
The whistle-blower quit his job before informing the agency of the coverups.
He asked the agency to refrain from disclosing his name so as not to adversely affect his future job prospects.
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