Officials from the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency (NISA) said on Tuesday that they, and Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO), were notified in 2006 of the risks a tsunami posed to the utility’s Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant. After the 2004 tsunami that devastated Indonesia, a session was held by NISA and several of Japan’s utility companies to look at the state of the country’s nuclear reactors and how prepared they were for earthquakes or tsunamis.
In August of 2006, their research culminated in a report that showed the utility companies in attendance, which included TEPCO, that the Fukushima facility had a high risk of losing power, and taking on sea water, in the event of a 14 meter (45.9 feet) tsunami. However, NISA could not say whether or not the utilities communicated this information internally. But it was clear that Fukushima was not prepared for a large-scale tsunami, as in March of 2011, the nuclear plant lost power and was unable to cool its reactors and spent fuel, resulting in a meltdown that released radiation into the atmosphere.
TEPCO Chairman Tsunehisa Katsumata, who was serving as the company’s president in 2006, testified at a government investigation that he had not been provided with any information about the Fukushima plant’s risks. He said that TEPCO would surely have taken preventative measure had the management been informed. Katsumata also stated that their immediate response to the March 11th crisis was obstructed by a visit on March 12th from Naoto Kan, the prime minister at the time. Masao Yoshida, the plant chief, was required to escort Kan around the plant for an hour, instead of managing the emergency situation. As part of the Japanese government’s $12.5 billion bailout, Katsumata will step down from his chairman position in June.