Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant Skipped Inspections

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The Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant, which is at the heart of the nuclear crisis that Japan is experiencing in the aftermath of its March 11 earthquake and tsunami, skipped a set of safety inspections, the operator of the nuclear power plant told safety regulators less than two weeks before that disaster.

The report to regulators was submitted by Tokyo Electric Power Co (TEPCO) to Japan's nuclear safety regulator, the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency on February 28. TEPCO said it had failed to inspect 33 pieces of equipment in the six reactors at the Fukushima Dai-ichi complex. It was noted earlier that the plant had, in fact, been scheduled to be retired in February, but received a new 10 year additional lease on life.

Included in those missed inspections were a motor and a backup power generator for the No. 1 reactor. The report is available on the TEPCO website.

The crisis at the nuclear power facility has been centered mostly on cooling the reactors at the complex, of which there are six, in total. News about the backup power generator having missed an inspection, just prior to the earthquake, has become a topic of criticism in terms of TEPCO.

Originally, the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency gave TEPCO until June 2 to file a corrective plan for the plant. The Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant is TEPCO's oldest nuclear facility, with its origin dating back to the 1970s.

In a fateful response, the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency said on March 2, just 9 days prior to the earthquake and tsunami, that it did not believe there was an "immediate" risk to safety as a result of the missed inspections. The response is on the agency's website.

Hidehiko Nishiyama is the safety agency's deputy director general. In a press briefing on Monday he said was unaware of the correspondence between regulators and the utility, and also added that he could not confirm any correlation between the missed inspections and the crisis, which occurred when a the March 11 earthquake and tsunami knocked out power as well as backup power to the plant.

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