TEPCO ordered to defer reporting looming explosion

Tokyo Electric Power Co has released about 150 hours of video records of the company`s teleconferences from March 11 to March 16 last year.

Tokyo: Tokyo Electric Power Co (TEPCO) was ordered by the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency (NISA) in March 2011 to delay announcing that the pressure level in one of the Fukushima No 1 plant’s broken reactors was spiking to critical levels, teleconference footage released by the utility has revealed.

According to the Japan Times, images of TEPCO teleconferences during the initial stages of the nuclear crisis, and other materials and information, confirm that it was forced to defer an announcement after pressure inside reactor 3 containment vessel suddenly spiked to alarming levels on March 14.

Masao Yoshida, the then manager of the crippled plant, instructed workers to temporarily evacuate the reactor building, fearing of a hydrogen explosion, after which TEPCO began preparing to announce about the development to the press.

However, the utility was instructed to withhold the information by NISA, which is under the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry, the report added.

The agency then made an announcement shortly on March 14, just two hours before a hydrogen explosion destroyed the upper part of the structure housing reactor 3.

The footage shows that in a conversation with the utility`s headquarters in Tokyo, one member of the team said: "We`ve been stopped by the government and are being made to wait before issuing any announcement to the press."

"NISA officials are blocking any release of information on the matter," a person who appears to be a head office employee said, adding: "The agency`s officials are saying that (TEPCO) should not be the entity to announce this either."

NISA defending its decision said it kept TEPCO’s announcement on hold because officials were unable to get in touch with its chief to obtain the necessary permission, the report added.