World Bulletin / News Desk
A government-appointed inquiry into Japan's Fukushima nuclear crisis raised doubts on Monday about whether other atomic plants were prepared for massive disasters despite new safety rules, and delivered a damning assessment of the regulators and the station's operator.
The report, the second this month about the disaster, could be seized upon by Japan's increasingly vociferous anti-nuclear movement after the restart of two reactors, and as the government readies a new energy policy due out next month.
The panel suggested post-Fukushima safety steps taken at other nuclear plants may not be enough to cope with a big, complex catastrophe caused by both human error and natural causes in a "disaster-prone nation" like Japan, which suffers from earthquakes, tsunami and volcanoes.
"We understand that immediate safety measures are being further detailed and will materialise in the future. But we strongly urge the people concerned to make continued efforts to take really effective steps," said the panel, chaired by University of Tokyo engineering professor Yotaro Hatamura.
Tokyo Electric Power Co (Tepco), the operator of the Fukushima Daiichi plant, and regulators failed to plan for a massive natural disaster, the panel said, blaming them for being lulled by the same "safety myth" blasted by a parliament-appointed team of experts earlier this month.
"Both the government and companies should establish a new philosophy of disaster prevention that requires safety and disaster measures against any massive accident and disaster ... regardless of event probability," the report said.
But the inquiry stopped short of accusing the regulators and Tepco of "collusion", a charge included in a strongly-worded report by a parliamentary panel earlier in July.
Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda's decision to restart Kansai Electric Power Co's two reactors this month has energised the country's growing anti-nuclear movement, with more than 100,000 taking to the streets in Tokyo a week ago.
All of Japan's 50 reactors were shut down for safety checks after Fukushima. Critics say the two restarted reactors do not meet all the government's safety criteria announced this April.
The panel called on the government to immediately take additional steps, including ensuring that off-site nuclear accident management centres are protected against the kind of massive radiation leaks that made the one at Fukushima useless.
The Fukushima Daiichi plant, 240 km (150 miles) north of Tokyo, was hit on March 11 last year by an earthquake and tsunami that knocked out power supply and swamped its backup power and cooling systems, resulting in meltdowns of three of its six reactors. Some 150,000 people were forced to flee as radioactive materials spewed, some never to return.
The government-appointed panel said there was no proof the earthquake was a key factor in the disaster but added that some impact could not be ruled out, contradicting Tepco's own findings, which put the blame solely on the tsunami.
The panel called on Tepco to review data presented to the panel because it believes they contain errors, echoing other criticism of the operator, and urged the utility to carry out further investigations into the causes of the disaster.
The report also blamed Japan's nuclear regulators for not paying sufficient heed to improvements in nuclear safety standards recommended by the International Atomic Energy Agency.
The biggest factor driving the U.S. rebound, according to BCG: cheap natural gas prices, which have tumbled 50 percent over the last decade as a result of the shale gas revolution.
Iranians rushed to the pumps to fill their cars before the price surge, but there were no immediate reports of unrest, unlike in 2007
The case has been closely watched due to the potentially high damages award and the opportunity to peek into the world of Silicon Valley's elite.
The currency move was part of wider actions by Russian banks to repatriate funds to Russia, lowering their exposure to the risks of possible wider Western sanctions
With memories of riots at the pumps when cheap fuel was rationed for the first time, in 2007, police are on the alert, but do not expect trouble, Interior Minister Abdolreza Rahmani Fazli said
Slovak Economy Minister Tomas Malatinsky said a deal allowing shipment of the gas via an unused pipeline between the two countries was almost ready.
Much lawmaking in Europe, including a sweeping overhaul of banking, is wrapped up in talks between diplomats and lawmakers with no public record of who attended or what was said
Thousands of workers at a factory in Dongguan in the Pearl River Delta run by Hong Kong-listed Yue Yuen Industrial Holdings , the world's largest shoe maker, have been on strike for more than 10 days
Russian Economy Minister Alexei Ulyukayev said last week that Russia could launch a dispute at the world trade body to challenge U.S. sanctions.
A Gazprom source said the $11.4 billion was in addition to the $2.2 billion that Naftogaz already owes for supplies in 2013 and 2014 so far.
Tech giant Apple reported Wednesday a 4.6 percent increase to $45.6 billion in quarterly revenue, beating market expectations after selling 43.7 million iPhones.
The six-day meeting is expected to discuss the CFTA's objectives, the principles that will guide negotiations for the free trade area, and the institutional arrangements needed to conduct negotiations.
Russia has proposed from European Union Energy Commissioner Guenther Oettinger for a three-way meeting on gas between Russia
The southern African country, which ditched its hyper-inflated local currency in 2009, is facing a serious dollar crunch as a result of lack of foreign donor support and investment
The European Commission, in charge of policing member states' public finances, is expected to respond to French projections in early June after European parliamentary elections
The Australian purchase is a signal of confidence in the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) programme, which is about 70 percent over budget and years behind schedule