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Fukushima plant
The Fukushima plant was unprepared for the disasterImage: picture alliance/Kyodo

Fukushima report

December 26, 2011

Nine months after the tsunami that crippled Japan's Fukushima nuclear power plant and triggered a nuclear disaster, an independent committee has uncovered serious errors in how the disaster was handled.


A preliminary report by an independent committee into Japan's Fukushima nuclear accident has accused the power plant's operator TEPCO and Japanese authorities of being unprepared for the disaster before it hit and for not responding properly in the aftermath.

The panel, chaired by engineering professor Yotaro Hatamura, says Japan's regulating agency had no clear plan for the scenario that unfolded in March when the power station was struck by a massive earthquake and an ensuing tsunami.

Ten-meter (32.8-foot) waves swamped the plant, shutting down cooling systems and triggering meltdowns in three of Fukushima's six reactors.

A man is checked for radiation
Evacuation efforts could have been aided with more informationImage: AP

Despite claims from TEPCO that such an extreme disaster as the one that unfolded in March was impossible to prepare for, the inquiry said "even if it is a phenomenon with a very low probability of occurring, it does not mean you can ignore it."

Underprepared for natural disasters

The report says TEPCO had not anticipated the loss of all power sources, nor had it given staff enough training. The emergency procedures that were in place were designed to cover internal problems or human errors, not large natural disasters such as tsunamis. Regulatory agencies were also criticized for not imposing tougher safety standards on TEPCO.

The report also accused the company of being too slow to gather information on leaks after the disaster and relaying this to authorities.

Workers attempt to contain the disaster at the plant
Workers' efforts at the plant were often uncoordinatedImage: picture alliance/abaca

Communication was a fundamental problem in the aftermath of the tsunami. Ground crews working at the Fukushima plant were sometimes left in the dark as to the status of the systems that they were working on, which led to assumptions and misguided decisions.

Government shortcomings

But the report did not put all the blame on TEPCO. The committee also charged the Japanese government's Nuclear Industrial and Safety Agency with not doing enough to help the company after the disaster.

The report said the government was poorly informed as events unfolded and did not send personnel to TEPCO's headquarters to improve the situation.

Additionally, the committee found that government did not make the full extent of radiation models available to the public as evacuation routes were being planned. Full disclosure could have led to better informed decisions.

The full report by Hatamura's committee is expected to be published in the middle of 2012.

Author: Matt Zuvela (AFP, dpa)
Editor: Ben Knight

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