Tepco Says Wasn’t Prepared for Accident on Scale of Fukushima

Tokyo Electric Power Co., the owner of the nuclear reactors at Fukushima whose 2011 tsunami-triggered meltdown led nations across the world to review their atomic policies, said it was unprepared to handle the crisis.

“When looking back on the accident, the problem was that preparations were not made in advance,” the company said in a document released yesterday by an internal nuclear reform special task force. “It was possible to diversify safety systems by referencing severe accident measures taken in other countries.”

The accident in March last year occurred when a tsunami knocked out power supply to Tepco’s Fukushima Dai-Ichi plant, disrupting the cooling process that led to reactor meltdown. The accident necessitated mass evacuations and led to long-term environmental damage.

While the Tepco leadership was aware of shortcomings in its safety preparedness and disaster-response procedures, it failed to take action, concerned it may create anti-nuclear sentiment among the public, bring on lawsuits or force a temporary shutdown of some nuclear plants.

“After completing severe accident measures in 2002 including containment venting and power supply cross-ties between units, no further measures for severe accidents were taken,” the company said. The management was lulled into thinking “that severe accidents have very low chance of occurring in Japan,” according to the document.

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Tepco management also turned out to be “unable to share information on status of important equipment which did not lead to prompt and adequate action” and there was confusion over how to handle communication between company headquarters and the prime minister’s office due to an “ambiguous chain of command,” the company said. As a result, the on-site crew, already short on equipment, ran out of supplies, according to the document.

Japan plans to scrap atomic power by the end of the 2030s as a result of the Fukushima disaster, according to a new energy policy approved last month by Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda. Japan will join Germany in abandoning the power source that helped both countries build world-beating economies and models for development from the destruction of World War II.

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