TOKYO, June 12 (Kyodo) — Tokyo Electric Power Co.'s draft investigation report on the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant disaster suggests the utility failed to promptly provide sufficient information to the public because the government "restricted" its publicity activities, sources close to the matter said Tuesday.
"Because we had to seek approval of the prime minister's office and the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency (on publicity matters), the timing of the announcement and the content were restricted," the sources said, quoting the wording to be included in the draft.
The argument suggests that the utility known as TEPCO is seeking to defend itself from criticism that its announcement on issues related to the accident, triggered by the huge earthquake and tsunami on March 11, 2011, was slow and the content was poor.
The government started to "restrict" publicity activities after a hydrogen explosion occurred at the plant's No. 1 unit on March 12, according to the sources.
The media aired TEPCO officials showing to the Fukushima prefectural government a photo of the reactor building, which people at the prime minister's office did not know of, leading then Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano to tell a TEPCO official, "This is a grave issue that should involve an apology by the president."
Following the warning, then TEPCO President Masataka Shimizu ordered people inside his company "never to release information to the public until there is permission from the prime minister's office."
An announcement that pressure was rising inside the No. 3 reactor's primary containment vessel on the early morning of March 14 was delayed because TEPCO could not gain approval to release the information from the government's nuclear safety agency, the sources said.
The agency and TEPCO later tried to adjust their replies before making announcements, but TEPCO said "announcements were frequently delayed" because of the need to get permission.
TEPCO also says in the draft that it "sincerely accepts" criticism that Shimizu and other company executives responded poorly during press conferences, while denying any intention to conceal or falsify information, they said.