Japan's largest nuclear utility has announced that there has been a safety cover-up for decades at its nuclear power plants. This is a devastating blow to an already embattled nuclear industry with global implications.
People the world over oppose nuclear power and scandals such as these show nuclear power cannot be trusted.
Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) announced that there had
been a failure dating back to the 1980's and through the 1990's to
conduct vital safety inspections at their nuclear reactors and that
results of tests had been deliberately falsified. The country's
nuclear program, as well as any future business prospects for the
two European plutonium companies - British Nuclear Fuels and Cogema
are now in serious doubt. Japan is the world's third largest
commercial nuclear power operator, with the largest construction
program for new reactors and plans to use thousands of kilograms of
plutonium in its reactors.
One immediate consequence of the news was the indefinite
postponement of plans by Tokyo Electric to introduce controversial
plutonium mixed oxide (MOX) fuel into one of its reactors during
September this year. This was announced by TEPCO President Nobuya
Minami at an emergency press conference held in Tokyo last
The announcement by TEPCO was made solely due to the efforts of
a former worker from the company that did the inspections, General
Electric International Inc. The 'whistleblower' informed the
Japanese Ministry for Trade, Industry and Economy (METI) in July
2000. METI has claimed in a statement that it has been
investigating the extent of the problem since then. However, this
is confirmation that the Japanese Government withheld vital nuclear
safety information for at least two years, while claiming their
reactors were safe.
One of the problems that has come to light is corrosion of the
reactor core shroud, but TEPCO did not inform the Japanese
Government for at least one year. The safety cover-up and
falsification goes beyond the core shroud and other vital
components in TEPCO's reactors. TEPCO was planning to load MOX into
one of its reactors later in September, defying opposition from
local citizens who feared it was not safe. It has emerged in the
last week that the reactor into which TEPCO was planning to load
MOX, has been found to have serious corrosion in a vital component
of the reactor.
"Japan's nuclear industry and Government has been exposed once
again as ignoring fundamental safety problems at their nuclear
reactors - risking catastrophic accident and the lives of tens of
millions. This is only the start of the scandal. There is a lot
more to be revealed and the industry and Japanese Government safety
authorities will have to be forced to release all relevant
information. It is confirmation once again that the nuclear
industry is inherently dishonest and cannot be trusted. The
ramifications of this latest news will be felt around the world,"
said Kazue Suzuki of Greenpeace Japan
The immediate postponement of TEPCO's plutonium program is a
further blow to the business prospects of British Nuclear Fuels and
Cogema, both were desperate to secure contracts with Japan.
Currently BNFL is shipping a cargo of rejected plutonium MOX fuel
from Japan after they lied to their largest Japanese client over
vital safety quality control data. The only reason BNFL is making
the shipment, and why the UK Government agreed to a compensation
package of over 100 million sterling to Japan, was on the basis of
Japan signing contracts for MOX with BNFL.