Kazuo Matsunaga, the vice-minister for the Ministry of Economy, Trade, and Industry during the Fukushima nuclear meltdown in March 2011, stated that he truly regretted underestimating the threat of a tsunami when evaluating nuclear plant’s earthquake safety guidelines. Speaking to the government panel investigating the disaster on Wednesday at a meeting appointed by the Diet, Matsunaga was also the chief of Japan’s Nuclear and industrial Safety Agency (NISA) in 2004 and 2005.
Under Matsunaga’s leadership, NISA made no attempts to pressure utility companies to take preventive measures in the wake of Indonesia’s 2004 earthquake and tsunami. As NISA serves to regulate the nation’s nuclear industry, it was surprising that in a 2006 report on earthquake safety guidelines, there was almost no mention of tsunami preparation. The vice-minister was fired in August of last year over how the Ministry had handled the ongoing crisis at Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO)’s Fukushima Daiichi plant.
Matsunaga’s excuses seem to ring similar those used by TEPCO in this week’s news that the utility’s head officials had known since 2006 about the risks a tsunami posed to Fukushima. A joint study conducted in 2006 between NISA and several of Japan’s utility companies, TEPCO included, found that the Fukushima plant could be subject to power outages, and unable to cool to its reactor cores, in the event of a tsunami. NISA instructed those utilities involved about the changes needed to be made, but TEPCO claimed it never received such instructions.