• Kyodo


Two government labor entities will turn over to prosecutors their case against Kansai Electric Power Co., alleging it illegally forced employees to work under dangerous conditions, officials said Tuesday.

The move follows last week’s deadly accident at Kepco’s nuclear plant in Mihama, Fukui Prefecture, in which superheated steam from a ruptured pipe killed four workers and injured seven others.

The Fukui Labor Bureau and Tsuruga Labor Standards Inspection Office are not empowered to lodge an accusation against Kepco over the accident, which occurred when workers from Kiuchi Keisoku, an Osaka-based subcontractor, were preparing for a regular inspection.

They said Kiuchi Keisoku was primarily responsible for ensuring inspection safety, not Kepco. All 11 victims were Kiuchi Keisoku workers.

But the bureau and office believe they can press charges against Kepco over its failure to ensure the safety of its own employees, who have been working at the accident site since November. That was when the utility was warned to check the pipe, which had not been inspected since the reactor began operations in 1976.

They will accuse Kepco of violating the industrial safety and health law.

Kepco reportedly learned in November that the burst pipe had never been inspected but failed to take action. The pipe had not been replaced in 27 years, and ensuing investigations showed it had worn down to a thickness of only 0.6 mm.

Kepco officials told Kyodo News its workers visited the building where the accident took place several times a day.

The bureau has set up a headquarters to investigate work conditions at the plant.

The officials said Kiuchi Keisoku will not be accused of neglecting worker safety because it apparently was not aware of Kepco’s failure to check the pipe.

Another pipe rupture

Steam burst from a ruptured pipe at a thermal power plant in Shinchi, Fukushima Prefecture, over the weekend, the government nuclear watchdog said Tuesday.

No one was injured in Sunday’s accident, which came just six days after four workers were killed in a similar accident at Kansai Electric Power Co.’s nuclear power plant in Mihama, Fukui Prefecture.

Steam escaped from a 9 cm × 18 cm oval hole in a supplementary drainage pipe, the agency said.

The Nuclear and Industrial Safety received a report on the accident. The agency has been gathering information from thermal power stations regarding pipe checks in the wake of last week’s fatal accident.

The agency warned the nation’s thermal power stations Tuesday to ensure the safety of their workers, officials said.

The coal-fired thermal power plant in Shinchi is operated by Soma Kyodo Power Co., a 50-50 joint venture between Tokyo Electric Power Co. and Tohoku Electric Power Co.

The damaged pipe had been corroded to 1.4 mm, from its original thickness of 10.3 mm.

The head of the Shinchi plant said the pipe “had not been inspected because it was not thought that its condition would deteriorate within 10 years of operations beginning” in July 1995.

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.