Tokyo Electric Power Co. has been caught in another lie in its apology on its website for misleading a Diet panel that was investigating the 2011 accident at its Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.
TEPCO officials already had been forced to backtrack on telling a member of the Fukushima Nuclear Accident Independent Investigation Commission that the No. 1 reactor was too dark to allow for on-site inspection of the damage caused by the March 11, 2011, earthquake and tsunami.
After The Asahi Shimbun broke a story on Feb. 7 that the TEPCO explanation was false and given to block an inspection, TEPCO posted a statement on its website that a panel member had asked about the degree to which light was entering the No. 1 reactor. The utility said the explanation of darkness was given based on an incorrect understanding of the facts.
The utility explained that there was no intent to willingly submit a false report to the panel.
However, when TEPCO officials visited the panel member to offer an explanation last February, no panel member inquired about the visibility in the reactor.
In fact, Toshimitsu Tamai, then chief of TEPCO's corporate planning department, himself broached the subject of darkness within the reactor. In the course of their discussion, Tamai said, "The reactor is now pitch black because the building is covered."
In actuality, a cover over the damaged building allowed some sunlight in, and there were powerful mercury lamps on the cover's ceiling.
At a Feb. 7 Lower House Budget Committee session, Toshimitsu Motegi, the minister of economy, trade and industry, said in reference to the misleading comments by TEPCO officials, "If false information was given with the intent to mislead, it will be absolutely unforgivable."
TEPCO President Naomi Hirose is scheduled to appear before the Lower House Budget Committee on Feb. 12 to respond to questions about the issue as an unsworn witness.
A TEPCO official avoided responding directly when asked about the utility's explanation on its website.
"We will proceed with an appropriate investigation based on instructions from the central government," the official said.
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