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information about Fukushima published in English in Japanese media info publiée en anglais dans la presse japonaise

Can TEPCO be trusted?


October 5, 2017

VOX POPULI: Can TEPCO still be trusted after past disasters and attitudes?



The other day, Tokyo Electric Power Co. President Tomoaki Kobayakawa pledged to ensure that the utility will place a higher priority on safety than on profitability in its operations.

Kobayakawa’s pledge boils down to a simple and obvious truism. “I promise to cause no trouble to people when I try to make money.”


It would probably be an insult to elementary school students to say his vow is like a line of repentance written by elementary school students.


But his pledge seems to have been somewhat helpful for his embattled company.

On Oct. 4, the Nuclear Regulation Authority gave the green light to the utility’s plan to restart two boiling-water reactors at its Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear power plant in Niigata Prefecture.


The nuclear safety regulator has concluded that the company is fit to operate nuclear reactors despite the catastrophic accident that occurred at its Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant in 2011.

TEPCO is in the process of paying compensation for damage caused by the accident and decommissioning the reactors at the plant.


The company claims it needs to generate profits by bringing offline reactors back online to secure funds needed for these steps.


In other words, the firm is trying to restart other reactors to cover the costs of cleaning up the mess left by the Fukushima disaster. It is doing so even though there is no place available to dispose of nuclear waste.


TEPCO’s Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear plant was hit by the powerful earthquake that occurred off Niigata Prefecture in 2007.


The earthquake caused a fire at the plant, and the operator failed to extinguish it quickly.

According to an Asahi Shimbun report, the TEPCO president at that time promised the Niigata governor it would learn valuable lessons from the experience and rebuild the facility as the safest nuclear power plant in the world.


Less than four years later, the reactors at the Fukushima plant, the same type as those at the Niigata plant, were struck by a severe accident.


Sadly, the company actually didn’t learn any important lessons from the accident at the Niigata plant.


Both the central government and the Diet have terminated their efforts to clarify all the factors that contributed to the Fukushima accident. Only the Niigata prefectural government is still working to delve deeper into the causes of the Fukushima accident.


The central government is showing no interest in mapping out a way for Japan to wean itself from its heavy dependence on nuclear power generation.


The attitudes of the government and nuclear power plant operators appear to suggest that they are simply pretending to have tamed the technology when they actually haven’t.

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