Stricken Japan plant missed scheduled inspections: filing

TOKYO Mon Mar 21, 2011 3:27am EDT

TOKYO (Reuters) - The operator of Japan's tsunami-damaged nuclear power plant told safety regulators less than two weeks before disaster struck that it had failed to carry out some scheduled inspections at the facility.

In a report submitted to Japan's nuclear safety agency on February 28, Japan's largest power utility, Tokyo Electric Power Co, said it had failed to inspect 33 pieces of equipment in the six reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi complex.

The equipment missed in scheduled inspections included a motor and a backup power generator for the No. 1 reactor, the firm said in a report available on a company website.

The exchange between the utility and safety regulators regarding safety misses at the plant has attracted attention because of its timing, and the equipment involved.

The failure of backup power systems is a key element of the current crisis, which has prompted a massive effort to contain radiation from the stricken plant.

In its response to the Tokyo Electric report, Japan's Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency gave Tokyo Electric until June 2 to draw up a corrective plan for the plant, the utility's oldest nuclear facility, which dating back to the 1970s.

The nuclear safety agency said in its March 2 response, available on the agency's website, that it did not believe there was an immediate risk to safety as a result of the missed inspections.

The agency, which has been criticized for its close ties to the industry it regulates, said it had been assured the equipment that had gone without inspection would be tested in the near term by Tokyo Electric.

Hidehiko Nishiyama, the agency's deputy director general, told a briefing on Monday he was not aware of the correspondence between regulators and the utility.

Nishiyama said he could not say whether the safety lapses played any role in worsening the crisis, which began on March 11 when a tremendous earthquake and tsunami knocked out power and backup power to the plant.

The filings by Tokyo Electric and Japan's safety regulators were archived on their Web sites and first reported by Jiji Press.

(Reporting by Kevin Krolicki; Editing by Mark Bendeich and Daniel Magnowski)

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