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Panel Calls For In-house Supervising Body To Watch On Nuke Plant Safety

Creation of an independent in-house supervising body to keep watch on safety measures and appointment of "risk communicators" to advise the management and nuclear division chiefs were among the recommendations made by a third-party panel of nuclear experts appointed by the Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) after it was flayed for poor response to the 2011 accident at its Fukushima nuclear power plant.

The panel said on Friday that the company could not put all the blame for the accident on the massive tsunami that hit the plant on March 11, 2011. The accident could have been averted if the company had been fully prepared for the tsunami, it said.

The in-house task force criticized TEPCO for pursuing economic efficiency while not putting enough effort into risk management. On the chain of command in case of an emergency, the panel suggested that the number of people that one supervisor can manage should be limited to seven to make sure that everyone is up to date in the event of a crisis.

The task force said the company was reluctant to disclose risks associated with nuclear power plants, and hence it called for assigning "risk communicators" to advise the management and nuclear division chiefs.

The reform plan is viewed as part of efforts by TEPCO to persuade authorities and the public to agree to allow it to resume operations of its Kashiwazaki Kariwa nuclear plant along the Japan Sea coast in Niigata prefecture. But TEPCO President Naomi Hirose ruled out speculation that the reform plan was intended to help restart the plant.

He promised to rid his company of arrogance and carry out drastic reforms to ensure nuclear safety. "If the company fails to do this, it does not have the right to operate nuclear plants," Japan's NHK broadcaster quoted him as saying.

Panel head Dale Klein said TEPCO had acknowledged its mistakes and had come up with a reform plan so it would not cause a similar accident. The company has just started a long journey for reform and that he and other panel members will keep watching its efforts, he added.

More than 160,000 residents in a 30-kilometer radius of the Fukushima Daiichi plant were evacuated after it suffered meltdown triggered by the quake-generated tsunami leaking radiation on a large scale that contaminated food and water in Fukushima and neighboring prefectures of Japan's northeast.

by RTTNews Staff Writer

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