Video shows TEPCO's hastiness in reporting cause of reactor explosion

August 08, 2012

By NAOYA KON/ Staff Writer

Tokyo Electric Power Co. announced, without verifying the cause, that a "hydrogen explosion" had occurred in its Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant on March 14, 2011, simply parroting what the government had reported.

The hasty announcement by TEPCO, the operator of the Fukushima plant, came following an explosion in the plant’s No. 3 reactor building, which occurred at 11:01 a.m. on March 14.

The sequence was among the 150 and a half hours of video conferencing recorded during the first days of the nuclear disaster, triggered by the Great East Japan Earthquake of March 11.

The footage in question was not on the 1.5-hour version of the video TEPCO released to the media, but was among the more than 150 hours of footage the utility allowed journalists to view on weekdays through Sept. 7, on condition no video or audio recording be made of any segments.

The footage, recorded around 11:30 a.m. on March 14, showed then TEPCO President Masataka Shimizu and Akio Takahashi, a senior official, sitting in a room in the company’s main office, discussing the wording of a news release, which would be similar to one made after a previous explosion in another reactor.

Two days before, on March 12, a hydrogen explosion had occurred in the plant’s No. 1 reactor building.

“In short, the only change we have made was replacing ‘No. 1 reactor’ with the ‘No. 3 reactor’?” Takahashi said in the footage. “We do not know whether it was a hydrogen explosion, but since the government--the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency--is saying it is a hydrogen explosion, we can just say so--a hydrogen explosion, can’t we?”

Takahashi urged that TEPCO parrot the government announcement, without trying to confirm the cause.

“On television a short while ago, NISA was saying it was a hydrogen explosion," he said. "I guess we’d better keep pace.”

The footage also showed someone saying, “the prime minister’s office has also been using the term hydrogen explosion. Perhaps we should do the same,” but the person was not identifiable.

Shimizu approved Takahashi’s recommendation, saying, “All right. I agree. This is fine.”

Then followed two seconds of bleeped-out footage. Shimizu then said, “Speediness is the key.”

At a later news conference, a public relations official of the utility announced, “It was a hydrogen explosion.”

The cause of the explosion in the No. 3 reactor building has yet to be determined.

By NAOYA KON/ Staff Writer
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Tokyo Electric Power Co.'s emergency headquarters immediately after an explosion in the No. 3 reactor of the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant on March 14, 2011 (Provided by Tokyo Electric Power Co.)

Tokyo Electric Power Co.'s emergency headquarters immediately after an explosion in the No. 3 reactor of the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant on March 14, 2011 (Provided by Tokyo Electric Power Co.)

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  • Tokyo Electric Power Co.'s emergency headquarters immediately after an explosion in the No. 3 reactor of the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant on March 14, 2011 (Provided by Tokyo Electric Power Co.)
  • Smoke is seen rising from the No. 3 reactor of the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant around 4:10 p.m., March 21, 2011. (Provided by Tokyo Electric Power Co.)

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