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Reports: Lax oversight, 'greed' preceded Japan nuclear crisis

Reports suggest that greed within the worldwide nuclear industry, combined with an insufficient UN watchdog and lax oversight of Japan's nuclear plants, contributed to the Japan nuclear crisis.

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Reports that plant operator TEPCO cut corners

Dr. Andreev said the sequence of events at Japan's Fukushima I suggested that the plant's owner, Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO), may have put profit before safety. The fire that broke out Tuesday in reactor No. 4's fuel storage pond may have been caused by a desire to conserve space and money, he suggested.

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"The Japanese were very greedy and they used every square inch of the space. But when you have a dense placing of spent fuel in the basin you have a high possibility of fire if the water is removed from the basin," Andreev told Reuters.

TEPCO has come under fire in the past for falsifying safety records at the Fukushima Daiichi plant. In 2002, according to The Wall Street Journal, TEPCO admitted to the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency that it had falsified the results of safety tests on the No. 1 reactor.

This was only one in a string of scandals and coverups to mar the Asia's biggest utility company. In 2007, the company initially said there was no release of radiation after an earthquake damaged its Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant, but later admitted that radioactive water spilled into the Sea of Japan.

And less than a year ago, on June 17, a reactor at Fukushima I lost electricity and saw a dangerous drop in cooling water, Bloomberg reported. TEPCO's president failed to adequately investigate to prevent the current crisis, said Iwaki City council member Kazuyoshi Sato.

“Tokyo Electric and the government’s Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency had too much faith and confidence in the safety of the plant and were lax in their response,” Mr. Sato told Bloomberg News.

Cozy relations within industry

But if the plant was lax in its response, where was the government agency whose job it is to enforce safety regulations? Indeed, seemingly cozy relations within the nuclear industry between regulators and operators are now also under the spotlight.

TEPCO and the Japanese government have partnered in the past to market nuclear power. In August, TEPCO's chairman joined the head of Japan's Ministry of Economy, Trade, and Industry on a trip to Vietnam to promote the sale of Japanese nuclear power plants. (Vietnam later chose TEPCO.)

Japan's nuclear crisis: A timeline of key events

Andreev, the Russian scientist, has also accused the IAEA of being too close with corporations. "This is only a fake organization because every organization which depends on the nuclear industry – and the IAEA depends on the nuclear industry – cannot perform properly."


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