Japan, TEPCO accused of ignoring nuclear accident risks

Above: Picture showing the damaged number three (L) and four reactors of the TEPCO Fukushima No.1 power plant in Fukushima, north of Tokyo.

TOKYO - Japanese and Tokyo Electric Power officials ignored the risks of an atomic accident because they believed in the "myth of nuclear safety", a government panel's report on the Fukushima crisis said Monday.

"The fundamental problem lies in the fact that utilities, including TEPCO, and the government have failed to see the danger as reality as they were bound by a myth of nuclear safety and the notion that severe accidents do not happen at nuclear plants in our country," said the 450-page report.

The study, completed by a government-appointed panel including scholars, journalists, lawyers and engineers, also said Fukushima staff were poorly trained to deal with the crisis after the plant's reactors went into meltdown last year.

Monday's report is the fourth to probe the crisis, after the earlier release of a damning parliamentary study, a private report by a group of journalists and scholars as well as an investigation by Tokyo Electric Power, or TEPCO, operator of the crippled Fukushima Daiichi plant.

Meltdowns at the plant sent clouds of radiation over a wide area, forcing tens of thousands of people from their homes, some possibly for the rest of their lives.

Emergency power for the reactors' cooling systems was damaged by a giant tsunami triggered by a massive 9.0-magnitude earthquake.

The report said that TEPCO and the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency (NISA) were ill-prepared to cope against a tsunami and severe accidents.

"Preparedness for a large-scale complex disaster was insufficient; and they were unprepared for the release of a large amount of radioactive materials into the environment caused by a containment failure," it added.

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