Tepco Chairman Plays Down Role in Disaster Readiness, Response

Tokyo Electric Power Chairman
Tsunehisa Katsumata, chairman of Tokyo Electric Power Co. Photographer: Tomohiro Ohsumi/Bloomberg

The chairman of the Fukushima Dai-Ichi atomic station’s operator deferred responsibility for its readiness and response to last year’s nuclear crisis, saying such measures were up to the company’s president.

Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s president was responsible for implementing safety plans and bringing the plant under control after the March 11 earthquake and tsunami last year caused the meltdown of three nuclear cores, Tsunehisa Katsumata said yesterday. Katsumata will be replaced as chairman in June following the government’s announcement it would nationalize the utility.

Katsumata spoke before a government-appointed commission investigating the disaster that forced about 160,000 people to evacuate from towns around the plant. At an earlier meeting of the panel in February, Nuclear Safety Commission Chairman Haruki Madarame played down his own agency’s responsibility for the crisis, saying utilities and bureaucrats were to blame for lax enforcement of the country’s atomic safety rules.

“In our company, the president has final responsibility for implementation,” Katsumata said in response to questions about his role in the company’s initial response to the mounting crisis. “I was there as well, but I was looking at the surrounding situation and providing advice as much as possible.”

Tokyo Electric’s president at the time of the crisis was Masataka Shimizu, who resigned in May last year. He was replaced by Toshio Nishizawa who will also be forced out under the government’s plan to remove executives in charge at the time of the disaster and bring in more outside directors.

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