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Japanese panel calls Fukushima meltdowns a 'manmade disaster'

Kyodo News via AP

The rubble is removed Thursday from the damaged No. 4 reactor building at Tokyo Electric Power Co.'s tsunami-crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in northeastern Japan.

Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant meltdowns were a “manmade disaster,” a parliamentary panel of experts concluded Thursday, when it issued a final report 15 months after the nation’s nuclear accident.

The scathing dossier based on over 900 hours of interviews with 1,167 participants blamed the operators of the plant, Tokyo Electric Power Co., and also the government's nuclear regulatory agencies for their opaque relationship and their tendency to collude with one another for self-protection.

Asahi Shimbun via Reuters

Medical staff use a Geiger counter to screen a woman for possible radiation exposure at a public welfare centre in Hitachi City, Ibaraki, March 16, 2011, after she evacuated from an area within 12.4 miles of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant. The woman was tested negative for radiation exposure.

In particular, the panel said that even though both Tokyo Electric and the regulatory agencies recognized as early as 2006 the potential dangers of a giant tsunami causing a complete loss of power at the Fukushima plant, no safety measures were adopted out of fear that a renovation might disrupt the reactors' operation.

Japan returns to nuclear power after shutdown

Also, the experts accused the government of then Prime Minister Naoto Kan of failing to inform local residents in a timely manner of the severity of the nuclear accident, causing panic and confusion during the evacuation 150,000 people from their homes after the March 11, 2011, earthquake and ensuing tsunami crippled the Fukushima plant. Three nuclear reactors went into meltdown and spewed radiation.

While the panel recommended a complete restructuring of the nation's disaster management policies, it also recommended a new regulatory agency that is transparent and independent of both the government and the nuclear industry.

The details for this new agency are being debated in the parliament and are expected to be inaugurated later this year.

Cleanup continues after last year's 9.0 earthquake and tsunami destroyed the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant in northern Japan. The government is still trying to establish its role in TEPCO and people in Tokyo, who felt the tremors, are concerned the c...

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