Mihama: fingers begin to point

12 October 2004

The 9 August pipe rupture at Mihama 3 has been blamed on Nihon Arm, Mitsubishi Heavy Industries and Kansai Electric Power Company (Kepco) in an interim report to the Japanese government.

Japanese economy, trade and industry minister Shoichi Nakagawa told a news conference: "Kansai Electric's responsibility is grave. "Shoichi ordered Kepco to suspend operations at Mihama 3 until special checks prove it meets government standards. The ministry also cancelled its quality guarantee for Mihama 1, Takahama 3 and Ohi 2 – all operated by Kepco and loacted in Fukui prefecture.

Following the Surry pipe rupture in the USA in 1986, Kepco revised the inspection schedule for the plant before Mitsubishi Heavy Industries took on the maintenance work. Mitsubishi compiled an inspection list – omitting a condensate pipe – and subsequently passed these pratices on to Nihon Arm, who took over the maintenance contract in 1996. Nihon Arm discovered the omission in April 2003 but waited until November to notify Kepco who agreed that the pipe should be checked at the next scheduled inspection. The pipe burst just days before the check, killing five workers and injuring six. It had never been tested for thickness since installation in 1976.

Fukui police have conducted a numer of raids on Kepco's offices in Fukui and elsewhere with the aim of finding the exact dates of Nihon Arm's warning and Kepco's responses to it.

Also of great interest to police are Nihon Arm's six-month delay in warning Kepco and Kepco's eight-month delay in inspection.


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