Report vividly describes 'man-made' disaster

The final report on the disaster at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant by an independent Diet panel vividly describes the confusion that reigned in the Prime Minister's Office and Tokyo Electric Power Co. in the initial days of the crisis.

The National Diet of Japan Fukushima Nuclear Accident Independent Investigation Commission based its conclusions on more than 1,000 interviews with people involved in the disaster response.

It released its final report Thursday.

However, it remains to be seen whether the government and TEPCO will take the criticisms in the report on nuclear power safety to heart.

One of the report's most gripping sections is the testimony of Masao Yoshida, then chief of the crippled nuclear power plant.

The report quotes Yoshida as saying: "The chain of command was a total mess. In principle, if [TEPCO's] head office had told me to stop [injecting sea water into the reactor], we could have discussed it at that point. But what actually happened was that I was called by [the Prime Minister's] Office, which was not directly involved in the accident response, and was told to stop [the injections]. I thought, 'What the hell is going on?'"

One focal point of the report was the involvement in the disaster response by then Prime Minister Naoto Kan and others in the Prime Minister's Office.

The report criticized them for excessive intervention. "The direct intervention by the [Prime Minister's Office]...disrupted the chain of command and brought disorder to an already dire situation" at the nuclear power plant, it said.

Yoshida's testimony was key to this criticism of the government.

However, the report also pointed out several problems with TEPCO's actions.

The report said "while TEPCO's headquarters was supposed to provide support to the plants, in reality it became subordinate to the [Prime Minister's Office], and ended up simply relaying the [Prime Minister's Office's] intentions."

The report concluded that TEPCO was not a victim of excessive intervention by the Prime Minister's Office's but was the main culprit in inviting it.

Another important point addressed by the report was whether then TEPCO President Masataka Shimizu asked the Prime Minister's Office to allow all workers at the nuclear plant to evacuate.

The account given by the Prime Minister's Office differed from TEPCO's version.

According to the commission, the Prime Minister's Office mistakenly believed that a request for total withdrawal had been made.

The report blamed Shimizu for his "inability to clearly report...the intentions of the operators at the plant," which caused the misunderstanding.

Despite Kan's insistence that his visit to the TEPCO head office prevented the withdrawal of all workers from the plant, the report stated that the panel could not understand why Kan claimed his visit stopped the staff from being pulled out.

Some of the most important evidence examined by the commission were recordings of video conferences made by TEPCO.

After analyzing the recordings, the panel concluded, "There is no trace of a decision on a complete withdrawal being made at TEPCO headquarters."

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