May 23, 2011
TOKYO — Prime Minister Naoto Kan on Monday denied having instructed Tokyo Electric Power Co to stop injecting seawater into the troubled No. 1 reactor at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, brushing aside criticism that an alleged suspension order from him may have worsened the situation.
At a Diet session, Kan said while he ordered the Nuclear Safety Commission of Japan and TEPCO on March 12, a day after the mega earthquake and tsunami crippled the plant, to examine if the injection could rekindle a nuclear chain reaction in a state known as ‘‘recriticality,’’ he did not receive a report at that time that the injection had actually started.
‘‘I cannot have said ‘stop’ with regard to something that had not been reported to me,’’ the premier told the House of Representatives’ special committee on post-disaster reconstruction in response to Sadakazu Tanigaki, chief of the main opposition Liberal Democratic Party.
According to a document released by TEPCO, the injection started at 7:04 p.m. on March 12, stopped at 7:25 p.m. and resumed at 8:20 p.m., meaning that the operation had been suspended for 55 minutes.
TEPCO has estimated most fuel at the No. 1 reactor had melted as of the morning of March 12.
At the Diet session, Haruki Madarame, chairman of the safety commission, said, ‘‘Asked by the premier if we should be concerned about recriticality (on March 12), I told him the possibility of it was not zero.’‘
The government had initially said the suspension came as Madarame pointed out that the injection could carry a risk of recriticality, but he denied it, telling Kyodo News on Sunday, ‘‘It would be unlikely for me, as an expert, to say such a thing. I feel quite upset about that.’‘
In the face of his denial, the government revised its announcement late Sunday, saying Maradame indicated the possibility of recriticality ‘‘is not zero.’’
This article was posted: Monday, May 23, 2011 at 7:47 am