Tokyo – About the only country today where a public apology is still accepted is in Japan, and quite honestly, this writer has always thought life would be so much more simpler if that’s all it took to right a profound wrong.
That is what took place last week when CTV News reported Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO) President Naomi Hirose acknowledged in public the company had delayed its disclosure of the meltdowns of three reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant.
Hirose’s apology on the cover-up was to be expected after the news came out that an investigation had found Hirose’s predecessor had instructed staff to avoid using the term, “meltdown” after the disaster in March 2011. “I would say it was a cover-up,” Hirose told a news conference. “It’s extremely regrettable.”
Hirose said he would take a 10 percent pay cut and another executive will take a 30 percent pay cut for one month each to show how sincere the apology really is. I hope all the children with thyroid abnormalities and all those displaced refugees from Fukushima Prefecture are willing to accept a one-month pay reduction by TEPCO executives as compensation for their troubles.
An investigative report submitted by three company-appointed lawyers on June 16, 2016, said TEPCO’s then-President Masataka Shimizu instructed officials to avoid using the specific description “meltdown” under alleged pressure from the Prime Minister’s Office, although the company’s attorneys say they have no direct evidence of this.
So TEPCO officials used the less damaging term “core damage” for two months, leaving the Japanese population and the rest of the world to think the disaster wasn’t that bad. Boy, was the world ever fooled? Of course, former officials at the Prime Minister’s Office have denied there was any pressure exerted on TEPCO, but what else would they be expected to say?
It wasn’t until May 2011 that TEPCO officials used the scary “M” word reports the Associated Press, and that was because computer simulations showed the fuel in one reactor had melted to the point it had fallen into the bottom of the primary containment chamber, and the other two reactor’s cores had melted far worse than previously thought.
It is interesting that every investigation so far had put the blame for the Fukushima disaster squarely on the shoulders of TEPCO. The first independent investigation authorized by the National Diet in its 66-year history was commissioned in 2011. That investigation reported:
“It was a profoundly man-made disaster – that could and should have been foreseen and prevented. And its effects could have been mitigated by a more effective human response. “Governments, regulatory authorities and Tokyo Electric Power lacked a sense of responsibility to protect people’s lives and society.”
The big question for me is simple. Did Prime Minister Shinzo Abe put enough pressure on TEPCO officials that the disaster was downplayed to the world? Abe’s government has not been very forthcoming about anything to do with Fukushima over the past five years, as this writer has reported previously in Digital Journal.
And owing to the fact that Mr. Abe has been adamant in saying Japan needs its nuclear power plants, anything he says about Fukushima I would take with a grain of salt. Digital Journal reported that on March 6, this year at a press conference, Abe insisted that safety of nuclear plants was the government’s “top priority.” He also said the government would “not change its policy” in which reactors that meet the new standards can be restarted. So, yes, I think he probably did speak sternly with TEPCO officials in March 2011.