On March 30th twelve Japanese electric power companies submitted reports to the Minister for Economy Trade and Industry about malpractices at their plants. These malpractices included data falsification and fabrication, deliberately duping safety inspectors, and failure to report problems such as uncontrolled criticality incidents at Boiling Water Reactors and emergency shut-downs.
The reports included 306 cases of malpractice. Of those, 97 related to nuclear power plants. If each incident is counted separately the figure is much larger. In addition, malpractices which occurred at experimental reactors, such as those owned by the government's principal research agency, the Japan Atomic Energy Agency, were reported. These included failure to report emergency shut-downs and problems with control rods.
When three control rods fell out of position at Hokuriku Electric's Shika-1 reactor in 1999, criticality continued uncontrolled for 15 minutes. In 1978, five rods fell out of position at reactor number 3 of Tokyo Electric Power Company's Fukushima I power plant. On that occasion criticality continued for seven and a half hours. And in 1998 34 rods slipped 15 cm out of position at Fukushima I unit 4, although the reactor did not reach criticality.
Some of the malpractices breached laws and regulations, while others did not, but that does not mean that there is any justification for the incidents which were not actually illegal. Rather, it serves to illustrate the inadequacy of the regulatory system. The endless malpractices revealed in these reports demonstrate once again the hollowness of the "safety first" mantra, which has been repeated again and again over the years by the management of electric power companies.
Neither the power companies, nor the government are qualified to operate nuclear reactors. At the very least, the licenses should be revoked for those reactors where criticality incidents were covered up.
Even local and prefectural authorities which hitherto have supported nuclear power have expressed outrage and declared that power companies which cover up problems and take such a cavalier attitude to safety cannot be trusted to implement pluthermal1. The plutonium-based pluthermal program should be canceled immediately. Operation of the Rokkasho reprocessing plant should also be canceled immediately. As long as active testing of the Rokkasho reprocessing plant continues, more and more plutonium is being produced and Japan's breach of its promise not to hold surplus plutonium2 becomes more and more egregious.
The malpractices revealed on this occasion are not isolated incidents. They are a manifestation of the very nature of the nuclear industry. Therefore, Citizens' Nuclear Information Center will continue to devote itself to finding answers to the question of how to rid society of the curse of nuclear power.
1. Pluthermal refers to using plutonium fuel (mixed uranium-plutonium oxide, or MOX fuel) in light water reactors.
2. Japan promised not to hold surplus plutonium in response to international concerns about nuclear proliferation. In fact, Japan now has over 43 tons of plutonium with no prospect of consuming it.
Contact: Philip White, CNIC International Liaison Officer
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