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TEPCO admits that it could have done more

The operator of Japan's Fukushima plant has admitted downplaying the facility's disaster vulnerability, fearing political, financial and reputational costs. TEPCO faces massive financial claims.

The Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) has been criticized for trying to dodge its responsibility for the world's worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl. A report has found that the company was aware that its disaster defenses were insufficient before Japan's 2011 tsunami smashed into the Fukushima plant. TEPCO produced the report after convening a panel of outside experts to review its nuclear programs.

"There was a latent fear that plant shutdown would be required until severe accident measures were put in place," TEPCO announced in the report, entitled "Fundamental Policy for the Reform of TEPCO Nuclear Power Organization."

"There was concern that if new severe accident measures were implemented, it could spread concern in the siting community that there is a problem with the safety of current plants," the report found. The report also states that TEPCO executives feared that any action might "add momentum to anti-nuclear movements."

The admission represents a turnaround from previous claims that Japan's 2011 tsunami could not have been prepared for. Investigation panels set up by the government and legislature both found that TEPCO had been aware of potential risks.

On March 11, 2011, the tsunami, set off by an earthquake, crippled the Fukushima plant's cooling systems and sent reactors into meltdown. Radioactive material contaminated farmland and forced tens of thousands of people from their homes, many of whom are still living in temporary accommodation. Some may never be allowed to return.

The cleanup and demolition of the reactors are expected to take decades.

mkg/msh (AFP, AP)

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