Fukushima: TEPCO ‘Blocked’ Nuclear Accident Investigation

TOKYO (Kyodo) — Tokyo Electric Power Co. blocked an attempt by a Diet-appointed panel to enter the No. 1 reactor building at the Fukushima Daiichi complex for an accident investigation last year, saying the unit was “in complete darkness,” which was not true, a member of the panel said Thursday.

The panel members were seeking to determine whether important equipment of the No. 1 reactor had suffered damage as a result of the earthquake on March 11, 2011, before ensuing tsunami ravaged the plant and triggered a nuclear crisis.

“The investigation was blocked because of false explanations,” science journalist Mitsuhiko Tanaka said in a statement, requesting that the state investigate the unit’s emergency cooling system called an isolation condenser.

Tanaka said he was told by TEPCO on Feb. 28 last year that the inside of the building housing the crippled No. 1 reactor was dark due to a lack of lighting and because an outer cover had been installed to reduce the release of radioactive substances into the air.

“It is so dark that one could get panicky. (TEPCO) workers cannot accompany (the panel members) due to the risk of radiation exposure,” a TEPCO official said at the time, according to Tanaka.

The panel members decided that the situation was dangerous and gave up on the investigation.

Contrary to the official’s claim, sunlight was able to penetrate the outer cover of the building, which was damaged by a hydrogen explosion early on in the crisis, and mercury lamps had been installed inside.

TEPCO has denied that it intentionally lied, saying, “A mistake was made in the explanation about the dangerous on-site situation.”

In a report compiled in July last year, the panel said the earthquake may have damaged equipment necessary for ensuring the safety at the No. 1 reactor, touching on the possibility of small-scale pipe breaks.

It also said that several workers who were on the fourth floor of the No. 1 reactor building at the time of the earthquake witnessed a water leak on the same floor, which houses two large tanks for the isolation condenser and piping for the condenser.

Read original here: http://mainichi.jp/english/english/newsselect/news/20130207p2g00m0dm085000c.html

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