After reports of the falsification of inspection data by Tokyo Electric Power (Tepco) to the Ministry of Energy, Trade and Industry (METI) were confirmed, there have been more revelations of further cases (see story links below). GE has given further information on the position.

GE said that it did not know for a long time that one of its own US employees had told Japanese regulators that GE’s client, Tepco, had been concealing results of GE- performed BWR core internals inspections. GE said that during the investigation of the affair being conducted in cooperation with Tepco and METI, four GE employees who had been working on core internals inspections on Tepco BWRs have been indefinitely suspended.

GE said that its “continuing investigation is aimed at providing information to METI as well as providing the basis for any necessary disciplinary actions and preventative measures to ensure that any irregularities do not recur.” According to Japanese officials, the letter from the GE employee was the first after Japan had enacted a whistleblower law providing legal protection to third parties informing regulators of improprieties by operators of nuclear facilities. According to some sources, when Japan’s regulator NISA first followed up the allegations from the whistleblower, they found that they could not be confirmed because Tepco had destroyed inspection records and because the company had, apparently on its own accord, made repairs in the equipment cited in the whistleblower’s report. NISA maintained contact with the GE whistleblower, however, and sources said that he tipped off NISA to another case where inspection results had not been reported. Tepco could not confirm it as it did not have documents available.

METI did not contact GE about any allegations of concealed inspection findings until October 2001. According to GE, for months after METI said its whistleblower made his allegations, GE management was not aware of any systematic irregularities at Tepco reactors involving GE’s findings. GE said that as soon as the matter had been brought to its attention, it immediately began an intensive inquiry, and promptly contacted METI and Tepco to pledge full cooperation.

GE has provided METI with copies of inspection documents in cases where Tepco’s copies of the records were destroyed one year after the inspections were done. According to some sources, GE documented 20 cases of irregularities. According to Tepco, based on information provided by GE, 29 cases of irregularities were discovered and details passed on to METI.

Tepco has submitted a report to METI, in which it compared GE’s documents with its own documentation. Out of the 29 cases, Tepco believes that 16 were inappropriate. However, there were no safety issues with any of the cases.

Tepco admitted in the report that there has been systematic and inappropriate management of nuclear power inspections and repair work for a long time. Tepco’s report said that the employees in charge of the maintenance work had to follow the precedents in the organisation, even if they believed something to be wrong. Tepco concluded that the responsibility lay with the nuclear power stations as a whole, and with the nuclear power sections of the head office, and finally, the top management of these sections.

The report also addressed the motives for the misconduct. For employees in charge of the inspection and maintenance work, the most important concern was to complete periodical inspections and to bring their own plants back on line as scheduled. Top management in the nuclear departments had similar concerns and priorities. These concerns and priorities resulted in the view that maintenance sections did not have to report problems to the regulator and local governments in the vicinity of the stations as long as there were no safety problems.
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