As reported on April 4th here, Japanese law-enforcement continues their investigation into TEPCO, the managing entity of the Fukushima Nuclear Reactor for charges of professional negligence resulting in death or injury, but now the Tokyo Prosecutor Special Investigation Unit has begun their own independent investigation. Update: The investigations may extend to public officials as well. In addition to this TEPCO is now under investigation by the Labor Standards Bureau for multiple violations of the labor laws.
The investigation is focussing on what TEPCO did after the Tsunami as well as before (in terms of criminal negligence). The two individuals most likely to be charged with criminal incompetence resulting in death and/or injury are the CEO at the time and the current chairman. During the first 24 hours after the accident, the chairman and the president were both unaccounted for and/or unreachable considerably delaying countermeasures which could have prevented death, injury and the meltdown. There are also reports that putting sea water into the reactor were delayed as TEPCO executives used political connections to buy time to try and save the reactors, rather than focussing on saving lives and the environment around the reactor.
One thing that is now increasingly coming into question is TEPCO’s assertion that “this accident was beyond the scope of our imagination” (想定外）. This only holds true if the cause of the reactor meltdown was due to the flooding of the emergency generators by the tsunami (tidal wave) which were supposed to power down the reactor. There is a great possibility that the earthquake itself immediately did so much damage to the containment vessel and parts of reactor 1, that the tidal wave influence was negligible. There are reports that for several years TEPCO was warned by the original manufacturers to replace the core of the reactor and failed to do so.
There is a distinct possibility that what happened was not “beyond imagination” but was simply a case of what had been predicted happening just as predicted. The Fukushima Nuclear Reactor accident is not a natural disaster; it’s a man-made disaster, created on several levels. How far the prosecution will go is an unknown. In light of recent arrests of prosecutors for forging evidence, and allegations that the prosecutor’s office in Fukushima trumped up charges against the former Governor of Fukushima, who was one of TEPCO’s most vocal opponents–national trust for the prosecutor’s office is at an all time low.
A source close to the Ministry of Justice, on conditions that his name not be used, said, “This is a chance for the prosecutor’s office to show that we are instruments of justice and not tools of whatever administration assumes power in Tokyo. We have a chance to regain public trust and we won’t squander it. All we have to do to prove criminal negligence resulting in death or injury is to show that the the parties involved had an understanding of a great danger which they did little to prevent. We don’t think that will be hard to prove on multiple levels.”
The May 25th edition of SAPIO also touches on the current investigation, although, I think that they are a little off the mark, it’s worth a read.
UPDATE May 16th, 2011 4:30am (US Time)/ (May 16th 6:30 pm (Tokyo): Kyodo news put out a news story today which back ups what we wrote previously that “there is a great possibility that the earthquake itself immediately did so much damage to the containment vessel and parts of reactor 1, that the tidal wave influence was negligible.” Kyodo asserts that two other reactors were severely damaged before the tidal wave.