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Why Tokyo Electric Power didn't act on safety issues before tsunami

Tokyo Electric Power Co. said in a statement that it had known safety improvements were needed before last year's tsunami triggered three meltdowns. Why didn't it act on them?

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From left, former U.S. nuclear regulatory chief Dale Klein, former chairman of the UK Atomic Energy Authority, Barbara Judge, and former prosecutor Masafumi Sakurai, who also served as a member of Japan's Parliament's Fukushima Nuclear Accident Independent Investigation Commission, attend the first internal reform committee meeting held by Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO) in Tokyo Friday, Oct. 12, 2012.

(AP Photo/Kyodo News)

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The utility behind Japan's nuclear disaster acknowledged for the first time Friday that it could have avoided the crisis.

Tokyo Electric Power Co. said in a statement that it had known safety improvements were needed before last year's tsunami triggered three meltdowns, but it had feared the political, economic and legal consequences of implementing them.

"When looking back on the accident, the problem was that preparations were not made in advance," TEPCO's internal reform task force, led by company President Naomi Hirose, said in the statement. "Could necessary measures have been taken with previous tsunami evaluations? It was possible to take action" by adopting more extensive safety measures, the task force said.

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The task force said TEPCO had feared efforts to better protect nuclear facilities from severe accidents such as tsunamis would trigger anti-nuclear sentiment, interfere with operations or increase litigation risks. TEPCO could have mitigated the impact of the accident if it had diversified power and cooling systems by paying closer attention to international standards and recommendations, the statement said. TEPCO also should have trained employees with practical crisis management skills rather than conduct obligatory drills as a formality, it said.

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