Fukushima nuclear plant operator accused of cover-up | Connect Asia

Fukushima nuclear plant operator accused of cover-up

Fukushima nuclear plant operator accused of cover-up

Updated 27 June 2012, 13:38 AEST

The operator of the Fukushima nuclear plant has been accused of lying and of covering up its own incompetence, in the company's in-house report into the disaster.

In its 350-page report, TEPCO denies ever hiding information, blames the government for confusion and delays and rejects suggestions it ever downplayed the seriousness of the meltdowns.

The company also claims that within a couple of days of the disaster it had dispatched workers to a village near the plant to warn them about the radiation.

However, the mayor of the now-abandoned village says TEPCO's claim is a lie, saying no-one from the company ever showed up.

Correspondent: Mark Willacy

Speaker: Tamotsu Baba, Namie village mayor

MARK WILLACY: It's the 13th of March 2011, less than 48 hours after a massive tsunami has slammed into the Fukushima nuclear plant.

No-one knows it yet but meltdowns have begun in reactors 1 and 3. The core in reactor 2 is just hours from melting down as well.

According to TEPCO's 352-page report into the disaster, on that very day, the 13th of March, the company dispatched employees to the village of Namie to speak with local officials about the developing crisis.

Just a few kilometres north-west of the shattered plant, Namie was right in the path of an approaching radioactive plume.

The town's mayor is Tamotsu Baba.

TAMOTSU BABA (translated): TEPCO's report says that on the 13th of March their employees visited our offices to explain the situation.

We were never visited by anyone from TEPCO. Nor was the situation explained to us. I feel they are liars. TEPCO's report makes me angry.

MARK WILLACY: Reading TEPCO's report, it seems the finger of blame is pointed at everyone else.

The operator of Fukushima does acknowledge that its tsunami safeguards were insufficient. But it says no-one could have foreseen such a massive tsunami.

Well, that's not quite right. In 2004 a seismology professor told a cabinet committee that Fukushima's coast was vulnerable to tsunamis more than twice as tall as the six metre worst case forecast.

Then in 2008, TEPCO officials rejected as unrealistic an internal report warning that the plant could be threatened by a tsunami of more than 10 metres.

Then again in 2009, a tsunami expert warned that huge earthquakes and tsunamis had hit the Fukushima coastline in the past and that it might happen again.

In its in-house report into last year's disaster, TEPCO denies it hid information from the public and the government, denies it played down the extent of the meltdowns, denies it ever considered abandoning the plant, and blames government interference for delays and confusion.

The mayor of Namie town near the plant, Tamotsu Baba, believes TEPCO's report is a whitewash.

TAMOTSU BABA (translated): I feel the report is about protecting the company. They are trying to exonerate themselves. I have nothing but doubts about this report.

MARK WILLACY: AM approached TEPCO about Mayor Baba's claim that the company is lying. In response TEPCO gave us a one-line statement saying it stands by its report. But it failed to give us details of who it sent to Namie and who they spoke to from the town's office.

So what of the town of Namie?

Well, it remains abandoned, its 22,000 residents living in temporary housing, unsure if or when they can ever return.

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