Tepco's handling of Japan's nuclear crisis under severe scrutiny
The International Atomic Energy Agency’s visit to Japan this week coincides with unprecedented criticism of the Tokyo Electric Power Company's handling of Japan's nuclear crisis following the March 11 earthquake.
Japan’s handling of its nuclear crisis will come under unprecedented scrutiny as the arrival this week of a team of inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency [IAEA] begins an investigation into Japan's biggest nuclear accident.Skip to next paragraph
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The IAEA’s 10-day visit, which began on Monday, coincides with mounting criticism of the operator of the Fukushima Daiichi plant, as it becomes clear that the damage caused by the March 11 earthquake and tsunami was far worse than initially thought. Its findings could have a significant impact on public attitudes toward both the plant's operator and the Japanese government, and are certain to attract the interest of other countries with nuclear power plants.
But the aim of the visit was not to apportion blame, stressed Mr. Weightman: “We will come to our best judgment without fear or favour from anybody,” he said, adding that the purpose of the visit was to “seek information to see how the world can learn lessons from the unfortunate events here.”
He added: “We have full cooperation and access to information. Whatever questions we ask, there are answers. We will come to our own views on information we seek. We seek to learn lessons on behalf of the world.”
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Japan’s top government spokesman, Yukio Edano said: ''The IAEA team's visit to investigate the accident is important from the standpoint of ensuring transparency to get to the bottom of this accident.”
The operator, Tokyo Electric Power [Tepco], did little to further its faltering reputation on Thursday, when it altered its account of its initial response to the nuclear accident.
The firm said it had continued to inject seawater into one of the damaged reactors soon after the March 11 tsunami, reversing an earlier statement in which it said it had suspended the risky measure amid pressure from the prime minister’s office.
That volte face comes days after it conceded that fuel rods in three reactors had melted within days of the disaster, a scenario that some scientists had predicted weeks ago. Tepco claimed, however, that it had been unable to confirm the fuel’s condition until it had analyzed all of the data.
"We have to take seriously the criticism that we haven't done enough to provide and circulate information," Mr. Edano told reporters at a news conference. "But we have never covered up information we had."
Quake may have damaged plant
Questions have also been raised about Tepco’s original explanation for the damage inflicted on the plant. For weeks, it claimed that power to vital cooling systems inside the reactors was knocked out by the tsunami that followed the earthquake.