Nuclear opponents from all around the world are astonished. The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) praised the efforts of the Japanese Government and the nuclear power plant operator ‘TEPCO’ for its „unprecedented crisis management“ during the Fukushima disaster.
At the end of May a commission of 18 members known as ‘nuclear protectors’ travelled for ten days throughout the contaminated area surroundly the damaged power plant. Their subsequent report conceals deficiencies in the handling of the disaster and reflects a benevolent attitude toward the plant‚s operator TEPCO, the Japanese Government and the national nuclear regulatory agency.
The report of the IAEA forms a strong contrast to what was reported to the public for weeks about the so-called crisis management - their hesitancy, their cover-up attempts and the humanitarian catastrophe not only of the liquidators - all that stands in flagrant contradiction to the IAEA report. But let us not talk about these atomic-apologists now. TEPCO‘s deficiencies uncovered in this disaster were not one-time blunders. Their crisis management has (had) a system behind it.
In 2002 an engineer of the U.S. Company ‘General Electric’ – three out of six reactors were built by General Electric - set the ball rolling. He informed the Japanese regulatory agency of the fact that no inspections had been carried out in 13 Tepco reactors and that in 29 cases data falsification and/or cover-ups were common practice. This report led to the resignation of TEPCO ‚s leading managers. Hiroshi Araki (CEO) and four top-managers had to leave TEPCO.
His replacement, Tsunehisa Katsumata, announced a new corporate culture. Core points were a code of ethics and openness in communication. Katsumatas said, „We must admit that we had no clear rules to judge whether equipment was fit for service. It was stated nowhere that equipment and machinery after a certain period of time could be worn out or even fail“. Elsewhere he stated in his speech: „Nuclear Division members tended to regard a stable supply of electricity as the ultimate objective ... The engineers were so confident of their knowledge of nuclear power that they came to believe that they would not have to report problems to the national government.“
Despite Katsumata´s efforts, obviously nothing changed. In 2007 eight people died in the TEPCO Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear power plant during an earthquake. Pipes burst, a fire broke out. The plant was shut down for a whole year and had to be decontaminated. As it turned out, the earthquake safety system - supposedly up to code - was in fact defective and had to be improved. 117 inspections had simply not been carried out. According to an article in the „Spiegel“ from March 22, 2011, shortly before the nuclear disaster in the Fukushima-Daiichi power plant on March 2, 2011, the atomic energy control authorities had reproached Tepco for inadequate maintenance: a total of 33 parts, including integral elements of the cooling systems of the six reactors and the cooling ponds had not been inspected as required by regulations.
A further charge against TEPCO persistently appears: On the morning of March 12, 2011 the company could have already started to cool down the nuclear fuel elements and thus prevent the nuclear meltdown (that happened a few hours later) by using sea water mixed with boric acid. However, this idea was rejected for financial reasons, as the salt water would have ruined the equipment, thereby making it unsuitable for further use. Even at the height of a major catastrophe, TEPCO was thinking primarily of one thing: profit.
Not mentioned in the IAEA report: the radiation exposure was played down. The workers didn‘t have a sufficient number of radiation meters at their disposal, even food was in short supply. It is hard to believe that the hastily drummed up liquidators had to share beds and blankets for weeks.
TEPCO and the IAEA have gambled away all credibility.