Tokyo Electric Power Co. (9501) erred by not publicly airing its suspicions that radioactive groundwater at the Fukushima nuclear plant may be leaking into the ocean, the company’s president said.
The utility known as Tepco suspected that the groundwater was seeping into the Pacific more than a month before it acknowledged that the leakage was taking place on July 22, President Naomi Hirose said at a press conference today. That acknowledgment was based on data shared with him three days earlier, said Hirose, who apologized for that delay as well.
“There are many points I regret,” Hirose said. “Our announcement was delayed because we decided to wait until more reliable data became available instead of informing of risks in a proactive way.”
Hirose vowed that the company would be faster to share information with the public in the future.
Tepco first suspected that the water was leaking into the ocean on June 19, when it found strontium and tritium in a monitoring well at a turbine complex within the Fukushima Dai-Ichi plant, which was damaged in the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami, Hirose said.
The company’s failure to acknowledge its concerns over the seepage into the ocean continued on July 10, when the Nuclear Regulation Authority said it suspected there was a leak and urged the utility to speed construction of a seawall to block contaminated water.
Hirose and Tepco Vice President Zengo Aizawa each had one month of their salaries cut by 10 percent as a penalty for delaying disclosure of the leak, according to a company statement today.
Hirose acknowledged the delay during a briefing that had been meant to focus on discussions held earlier in the day by Tepco’s Nuclear Reform Monitoring Committee, a panel of outside experts set up after the accident to help guide the resumption of the company’s nuclear plants.
“It is very frustrating for the members of the committee to arrive just in time when there is groundwater leakage and a very poor communication program, said Committee Chairman Dale Klein, a former chairman of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission. ‘‘From what we’ve seen, it’s more of what I’d call incompetence instead of any cover-up.”
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