The proposal was then included in a formal report submitted to authorities in Tokyo on March 31 as part of an annual process designed to assess Japan’s future electricity supply.
“It was just unbelievable,” said Yoichi Nozaki, director general of Fukushima’s Planning and Coordination Department, which oversees energy matters here in the capital of the region most blighted by the biggest nuclear debacle since Chernobyl.
When Tepco notified Fukushima’s energy department of its new reactor plans, Nozaki immediately told Fukushima’s governor, Yuhei Sato, who reacted with fury. “What is going on?” he fumed. Nozaki met the head of Tepco’s local branch and told him “we definitely cannot accept” the building of new reactors. A Tepco team from Tokyo was given the same “no way” message. The electricity company, said Nozaki, was told by prefectural officials “to sort out problems on the ground first and stop thinking about new reactors.”
Tokyo Electric pressed on, declining to alter its plans and submitting them to the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry, or METI, in Tokyo.
With its reputation and its finances already shredded by the events at Fukushima Daiichi, Tepco now has another fiasco to contain. Its proposal for new reactors, first reported Sunday in a Fukushima newspaper, has caused horrified dismay — and significant backpedaling by the utility.
“It was a mistake,” Hiroshi Aizawa, a Tepco official in Fukushima, said Monday. He said the company had been too busy trying to get Fukushima Daiichi under control and avoiding power cuts to revise a plan that took shape before the March 11 earthquake and tsunami.
The disarray — on full view just as BP seeks to restart drilling in the Gulf of Mexico, the scene of a spectacular blowout last year on a rig leased by the oil giant — has sharpened a question that has dogged Tepco since the tsunami slammed into its Fukushima plant: Has the scale of the disaster triggered a managerial meltdown, or is the world’s largest private electric utility simply sticking to the aloof, heedless habits of a corporate behemoth accustomed to getting its way?
“I don’t know what they’re doing,” Nozaki, the Fukushima planning chief, said of Tepco’s executives. “Ask them!”
The idea of building two new reactors at a facility that is still leaking radiation into the air and sea “is of course totally unacceptable,” Nozaki said. He now meets each morning with other senior officials to hear the latest figures on the radiation being spread by Tepco’s crippled plant.