Fukushima operator admits nuclear disaster avoidable


TOKYO, Oct 12 (Reuters) - Tokyo Electric Power Co (Tepco), the operator of the wrecked Fukushima nuclear plant,said on Friday it could have dealt better with the plant'smeltdowns if broad preparations were taken, reversing theprevious management's view that the disaster was unavoidable dueto an unexpected force of nature.

The comments were contained in a draft plan for the reformof nuclear power organisation a Tepco task force submitted to anindependent advisory body, which held the first meeting onFriday, to improve safety and safety culture at Tepco.

The five-member advisory body to the board of directors, theNuclear Reform Monitoring Committee, plans to hold a meetingonce every two to three months to review the draft plan and makeproposals, without a pre-fixed time to complete its mission.

The Fukushima Daiichi plant, 240 km (150 miles) north ofTokyo, was hit on March 11 last year by a massive earthquake andtsunami that swamped its backup power and cooling systems,resulting in meltdowns of three of its six reactors.

About 150,000 people were forced to flee as radioactivematerials spewed, some never to return.

Tepco, struggling under huge costs for compensation, cleanupand decommissioning, has since replaced top management withChairman Kazuhiko Shimokobe, a lawyer who had crafted acompensation scheme for disaster victims, and President NaomiHirose.

"When looking back on the accident, the problem was thatpreparations were not made in advance, so we need a reform planthat will allow us to be sensitive in capturing opportunitiesfor improvement and safety enhancement and lead to actualmeasures," the draft nuclear reform plan said.

It was possible to take action in regard of tsunami defencebased on the company's earlier tsunami evaluations and it wasalso possible to diversify safety systems by referencing severeaccident measures taken in other countries, the draft also said.

In a news conference attended by the committee members, DaleKlein, head of the committee and former chairman of U.S. NuclearRegulatory Commission, said nuclear power can be safe in anycountry - even in quake-prone Japan - if done properly.

Tepco was nationalised earlier this year with a 1 trillionyen ($12.7 billion) injection of public funds in exchange for aturnaround plan, that includes restarting the Kashiwazaki-Kariwanuclear plant, northwest of Tokyo, as early as in April 2013.($1 = 78.5100 Japanese yen)

(Reporting by Risa Maeda)


Messaging: risa.maeda.thomsonreuters.com@reuters.net))


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