On March 2nd, approximately nine days before the TEPCO (Tokyo Electric Power Company) Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant Reactor One melted down, the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency (NISA) formally disciplined TEPCO for failure to conduct inspections on critical pieces of equipment at the Fukushima Number One and Number Two Reactor. NISA found that TEPCO had violated safety regulations and gave them the second lightest administrative punishment possible: 注意の行政処分-chui no gyoseishobun. In other words: orders to be more careful. NISA instructed TEPCO to investigate the fundamental reasons inspections were not conducted, to put in place preventive measures, and to issue them a full report on why inspections were not conducted and the current situation by June 2nd, 2011.
Not only were equipment inspections neglected at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant, they were also neglected at the Kashiwazaki Kiriwa reactor in Niigata Prefecture. In 2007, at the same reactor, a strong earthquake resulted in a fire and leakage of radiation. According to Kyodo News and other sources, 375 pieces of equipment were not inspected at Kashiwazaki Kiriwa reactor. At the Fukushima Reactor 1, 33 pieces of equipment, and at the Fukushima Reactor 2, 21 pieces of equipment were not inspected. According to former TEPCO employees one of the pieces that should have been checked was part of the recirculation pump that is used to regulate the temperature of the reactor core of Fukushima Reactor one.
NISA was unable to comment on whether the full mandated report had been received from TEPCO as of June 20th, 2011. When NISA replies, we will post it here. From the beginning of the crisis, TEPCO has insisted that the cause of the nuclear meltdown was the unprecedented tidal wave (tsunami) which knocked out the electric power systems to cool the reactor but there is increasing evidence which suggests that the cause of the meltdown was the earthquake itself and that it had begun before the tsunami arrived. As for the tsunami being “unforeseeable” (想定外) , this claim is also dubious. Even as early as 2007, TEPCO was allegedly warned that a large scale tsunami was possible and could cause a nuclear meltdown. (Watch here for further updates).