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Tepco Could Have Prevented Fukushima Disaster, Panel Chief Says

Tokyo Electric Power Co., the operator of the crippled Fukushima Dai-Ichi plant, could have prevented the nuclear accident in 2011 if it had been prepared enough for the natural disaster, the chief of the company’s reform committee said.

“If the natural events, mainly the tsunami height, would have been examined in more detail, then I think Tepco would have taken initial precautions to have prevented the tsunami impact,” Dale Klein, a former chairman of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, told reporters after his five-member committee recommended measures to improve safety at nuclear plants owned by the company known as Tepco.

Reactor meltdowns and the massive radiation release at the Dai-Ichi plant after the quake and tsunami stemmed from “man-made” failures, according to an investigation commission led by Tokyo University professor emeritus Kiyoshi Kurokawa.

Fukushima prosecutors began a criminal investigation into the accident in August after more than 1,300 residents filed a complaint against Tepco executives, including former Chairman Tsunehisa Katsumata.

Tepco shouldn’t think the disaster was out of its control and needs to accept the fact that it was unable to avoid “an accident that should have been prevented through precautions based on its best effort,” the company said in its 103-page report today.

Response Measures

The utility plans to set up an office, which will directly report to the company’s board, to monitor nuclear safety as part of reform measures, it said. Tepco executives will undertake training to learn from the Fukushima disaster and will examine case studies involving other companies, it said.

“There were a series of unfortunate decisions made that underestimated the forces of nature and the what-ifs that should have been prepared if a larger-than-expected tsunami would have occurred,” Klein said at the news conference at Tepco’s headquarters in Tokyo today.

Tepco officials have to “sincerely” take Klein’s view regarding the operator’s responsibility, said Kazuhiko Shimokobe, who became chairman in June.

Tepco said in August 2011 that its research in 2008 showed its Fukushima nuclear plant could be hit by a tsunami more than 10 meters high. That contradicted earlier claims by executives, including former President Masataka Shimizu, who resigned after the disaster, that such a tsunami was unforeseeable.

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