Tokyo Electric Power has a history of mismanagement and serious safety lapses

In 1998, Kei Sugaoka, a Japanese-American nuclear inspector who was a senior engineer for General Electric and often worked at the Fukushima Daiichi power plant (as GE did contract work there), discovered a cracked steam dryer, a metal component that removes water vapour from steam before it flows into the turbines. He informed his superiors at Tokyo Electric Power (Tepco), operators of the plant, who were obligated to report the incident to regulators. The revelations could have forced the operator to do what utilities least want to: undertake costly repairs.

According to CBS News, Sugaoka “received an order that horrified him: edit out footage showing cracks in plant steam pipes in video being submitted to regulators”.What happened next was an example, critics have since said, of the collusive ties that bind Japan’s nuclear power companies, regulators and politicians.

For a while Sugaoka did nothing, but eventually filed a written report to the authorities. Instead of immediately deploying investigators to Daiichi, Japan’s Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency (Nisa) instructed the company to inspect its own reactors and take whatever action it deemed appropriate. Despite a new law shielding whistle-blowers, Nisa divulged Sugaoka’s identity to Tepco. He was fired and effectively blackballed from...

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