Tokyo – The government proposed to Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc. that a simulation of tsunami waves striking Fukushima Prefecture be conducted nine years before the 2011 catastrophe that crippled its nuclear plant, but decided not to after the company objected, a document from an ongoing compensation suit showed Monday.
When the government’s earthquake research unit unveiled a long-term assessment in July 2002 saying that massive tsunami waves could occur anywhere along the Pacific coast in northeastern Japan, a now-defunct nuclear agency told the Fukushima plant operator the following month that a simulation of possible tsunami damage was needed, an agency official’s statement submitted to the Chiba District Court showed.
But Tepco rejected the proposal on the basis of research by a seismologist, according to Shuji Kawahara, the official of the defunct Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency under the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry.
The statement was presented in a lawsuit filed by nuclear disaster evacuees demanding compensation from the government and Tepco. The trial, along with other similar lawsuits filed nationwide, is focused on whether the government and Tepco were able to foresee the huge tsunami triggered by the 2011 earthquake and take preventive measures beforehand.
The magnitude-9.0 earthquake and ensuing tsunami struck northeastern Japan on March 11, 2011, resulting in a blackout at the plant and a consequent loss of reactor cooling functions. The plant suffered multiple meltdowns and hydrogen blasts.
According to Kawahara’s statement, the agency accepted Tepco’s rejection because the long-term assessment did not sufficiently show that a large tsunami was a realistic threat to the plant’s operation. The company also said it would give consideration to tsunami measures in the future.
Kawahara defended the agency’s response as legitimate under nuclear safety regulations in force at the time.
Tepco said it would not comment on matters related to ongoing court proceedings.