Operator denies intent to abandon crippled Fukushima plant

TEPCO's investigation concluded the tsunami of March 2011 was beyond expectations, and admits it wasn't prepared to deal with such a crisis. [DigitalGlobe: AFP]
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TEPCO's investigation concluded the tsunami of March 2011 was beyond expectations, and admits it wasn't prepared to deal with such a crisis. [DigitalGlobe: AFP]

North Asia correspondent Mark Willacy, wires

Last Updated: Thu, 21 Jun 2012 07:48:00 +1000

The operator of Japan's Fukushima plant has denied it ever considered abandoning the crippled nuclear power plant in the wake of last year's devastating tsunami.

Tokyo Electric Power (TEPCO)'s in-house investigation into the world's worst nuclear accident since Chernobyl concludes that the tsunami of March last year was beyond expectations, and admits it wasn't prepared to deal with such a crisis.

TEPCO's report blamed interference from political leaders, saying unnecessary confusion at the height of the meltdowns was caused by insufficent contact with the office of the then prime minister, Naoto Kan.

The reports says this lack of communication may have led him to think the firm intended to leave the radiation-spewing reactors to their fate.

"On March 14 (2011), as the condition worsened, we considered a temporary pullout of workers who were not directly relevant to the operation," it said.

"But it was under the assumption that those needed for the operation would stay, and the company never intended an entire pullout."

An earlier independent inquiry, to which the company declined to give evidence, said Mr Kan's single "biggest contribution" to the handling of the disaster had been to force TEPCO to keep staff on site.

Mr Kan was lauded for threatening to break up the huge utility if it pulled its workers out as three reactors went into meltdown, in the days after cooling systems were knocked offline by the huge tsunami of March 2011.

But in its report, TEPCO denied ever having had such a plan.

"This issue possibly emerged due to insubstantial communication between the (TEPCO) headquarters and the prime minister's office," it said.

Radiation was spread over a large area of northeast Japan in the days after the tsunami struck, forcing tens of thousands of people from their homes and rendering swathes of land unusable for agriculture.

Fifteen months on from the disaster, many areas remain uninhabitable, with scientists warning it could be three decades before some families can return.

The natural disaster claimed around 19,000 lives, but no one is officially recorded as having died as a direct result of radioactive leaks at Fukushima.

- ABC/AFP

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