Now is the time to fundamentally change nuclear energy policy -- Akahata editorial, September 1

It has been disclosed that Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO) has long concealed the existence of many accidents at its power stations. Accidents have been covered up for most light-water reactors at the Fukushima No.1 and No.2 plants (Fukushima Pref.) and Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant (Niigata Pref.). This represents the worst state of affairs, ever appalling the public as well as local governments that host these power plants.

Fictitious propaganda that 'nuclear power is safe'

According to the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency (NISA), TEPCO failed to report accidents that were found during internal reactor checks conducted by the U.S. General Electric International Inc. (GEII) from the late 1980s to the 1990s. TEPCO had allegedly doctored a report on discovery and repairs of cracks or abrasions of important parts of the reactor's core, such as the shroud (divider plate for water stream), shroud head bolts, steam dryers, access holes, and jet pumps.

The NISA says it has found 29 cases of fabrication of reports, which were done under TEPCO's instructions. TEPCO's act of dishonesty was brought to light in July 2000 when a staff member from GEII reported on the falsification to the then International Trade and Industry Ministry.

On August 22 and 23, TEPCO announced that it discovered many cracks in a Fukushima No. 1 Plant's reactor which will be used for a "pluthermal" plan and in a Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant reactor. Suspicion is even surfacing that the recent TEPCO announcement may have included accidents which it had hidden.

TEPCO's act greatly damages the foundations of the safety of nuclear power.

At the same time, we must point out that the government and electric power companies have repeatedly assured the public that nuclear power generation is safe and pushed ahead with the pluthermal project. This is nothing but an abuse of public confidence.

The cover-up scandal shows that TEPCO has learned nothing from the lessons of the 1999 nuclear criticality accident at a uranium processing plant in Tokaimura, just adhering to the "myth that nuclear power generation is safe," giving priority to the efficiency of nuclear power plant operations, and failing to take security measures.

In this respect, the NISA is also responsible. In announcing the fact of the accidents, the agency admitted that there are still eight plants which need a change or repair of cracked or worn-out shrouds, jet pumps, and pipes for measurement, but said that these problems won't immediately cause serious effects on the plants' safety. It thus glossed over the problems to avoid causing further troubles.

The Japanese Communist Party demands suspension of the operation and an urgent check of those nuclear power plants, if there is even a small question of their safety. It also calls for an investigation by a third party institution to establish all facts about the cover-up. Similar investigations should also be carried out for other electric power companies.

Independent control institution must be established

The root cause of the cover-up incident is that the government and electric power companies have jointly created the "myth" of a safe nuclear power plant and run technologically incomplete nuclear power plants. It is necessary for Japan's atomic energy administration to give up the safety myth and take a safety-first policy. The most important thing is to follow a recommendation of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and establish an independent institution to control atomic energy use and ensure safety operations.

The pluthermal project must immediately be withdrawn, as it would only increase danger of nuclear power plants. In addition, the plutonium cycle method must be comprehensively reviewed. (end)