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TEPCO admitted faking Fukushima repair records

20 march 2011, 14:27
Days before Japan plunged into an atomic crisis after a giant earthquake and tsunami knocked out power at the ageing Fukushima nuclear plant, its operator had admitted faking repair records, AFP reports.

The revelation raises fresh questions about both Tokyo Electric Power Co (TEPCO)'s scandal-tainted past and the government's perceived soft regulation of a key industry.

The operator of the Fukushima No. 1 plant submitted a report to the country's nuclear watchdog ten days before the quake hit on March 11, admitting it had failed to inspect 33 pieces of equipment in its six reactors there.

A power board distributing electricity to a reactor's temperature control valves was not examined for 11 years, and inspectors faked records, pretending to make thorough inspections when in fact they were only cursory, TEPCO said.

It also said that inspections, which are voluntary, did not cover other devices related to cooling systems including water pump motors and diesel generators.

"Long-term inspection plans and maintenance management were inadequate," the nuclear safety agency concluded in a follow-up report two days after TEPCO's admission. "The quality of inspection was insufficient."

The safety agency ordered the operator to draw up a corrective plan by June 2.

But on March 11 the 9.0-magnitude earthquake unleashed a ten-metre (33-feet) tsunami, knocking out back-up generators hooked to the plant's cooling system aimed at keeping fuel rods from overheating and releasing dangerous radiation.

A nuclear safety agency official who declined to be named said: "We can't say that the lapses listed in the (February 28) report did not have an influence on the chain of events leading to this crisis".

"We will conduct thorough research on TEPCO's activities up until this crisis but that will come afterwards. For now we are only working on saving the plant," he added.

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