JAPAN | Outgoing nuclear agency chief was aware of possible meltdown at Fukushima plant

Posted on August 11, 2011

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JAPAN | MAINICHI | 11 August 2011

Nobuaki Terasaka, outgoing director general of the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency, holds a news conference on Aug. 10. (Mainichi)

Nobuaki Terasaka, outgoing director general of the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency, holds a news conference on Aug. 10. (Mainichi)

Nobuaki Terasaka, outgoing director general of the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency (NISA), said Aug. 10 that he was aware of the possibility of a meltdown at the Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant due to the detection of cesium on March 12, a day after the Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami crippled the plant.

“I thought the possibility (of a meltdown) cannot be ruled out,” Terasaka said at a news conference. His comment drew close attention because a NISA spokesman in March was replaced shortly after he admitted such a possibility.

The government said in June that the No. 1 to 3 reactor cores experienced meltdowns shortly after the March 11 natural disasters.

In this image released Saturday, April 16, 2011, by Tokyo Electric Power Co., top of the container of the nuclear reactor, painted in yellow, of Unit 4 at the Fukushima Dai-ichi Nuclear Plant is observed from its side with a T-Hawk drone Friday, April 15, 2011 in Okuma, Fukushima Prefecture, northeastern Japan. (AP Photo/Tokyo Electric Power Co.)

In this image released Saturday, April 16, 2011, by Tokyo Electric Power Co., top of the container of the nuclear reactor, painted in yellow, of Unit 4 at the Fukushima Dai-ichi Nuclear Plant is observed from its side with a T-Hawk drone Friday, April 15, 2011 in Okuma, Fukushima Prefecture, northeastern Japan. (AP Photo/Tokyo Electric Power Co.)

Asked about NISA’s handling of the nuclear crisis, he said, “I am really sorry as a representative of a regulatory agency to know that many people have evacuated and are inconvenienced. There has been criticism about the results, but I have done my best.”

As for NISA’s response to the loss of all of the Fukushima plant’s power sources and the evacuation of residents near and around the stricken plant, Terasaka said only that an investigation committee is looking into those issues.

Regarding the delay in releasing radiation forecast data, known as the System for Prediction of Environmental Emergency Dose Information (SPEEDI), the NISA chief said he knew just before the official announcement. He also said he was aware of the criticism that he rarely held news conferences after the outbreak of the nuclear crisis.

This Saturday May 7, 2011 image from video footage released on Sunday May 8, 2011 by Tokyo Electric Power Co., shows spent fuel storage pool of the Unit 4 reactor building at the crippled Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant in Okuma town, Fukushima Prefecture, northeastern Japan. (AP Photo/Tokyo Electric Power Co.)

This Saturday May 7, 2011 image from video footage released on Sunday May 8, 2011 by Tokyo Electric Power Co., shows spent fuel storage pool of the Unit 4 reactor building at the crippled Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant in Okuma town, Fukushima Prefecture, northeastern Japan. (AP Photo/Tokyo Electric Power Co.)

Terasaka will be relieved of his duties on Aug. 12 over the handling of the nuclear crisis as well as over e-mail campaigns to solicit opinions in favor of nuclear power plants and projects ahead of state-sponsored symposiums.

Kazuo Matsunaga, administrative vice minister of the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) and Tetsuhiro Hosono, director general of the Agency for Natural Resources and Energy, will be sacked along with Terasaka in connection with the nuclear crisis. Both NISA and the Agency for Natural Resources and Energy are under METI’s wings.

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