Japan's nuclear power operator has checkered past

SINGAPORE (Reuters) - The company at the center of a nuclear reactor crisis following the biggest earthquake in Japan’s recorded history has had a rocky past in an industry plagued by scandal.

The Japanese government said on Saturday that there had been radiation leakage at Tokyo Electric Power’s (TEPCO) Fukushima Daiichi plant following an explosion there.

The blast came as TEPCO was working desperately to reduce pressures in the core of a reactor at the 40-year-old plant, which lies 240 km (150 miles) north of Tokyo.

In 2002, the president of the country’s largest power utility was forced to resign along with four other senior executives, taking responsibility for suspected falsification of nuclear plant safety records.

The company was suspected of 29 cases involving falsified repair records at nuclear reactors. It had to stop operations at five reactors, including the two damaged in the latest tremor, for safety inspections.

A few years later it ran into trouble again over accusations of falsifying data.

In late 2006, the government ordered TEPCO to check past data after it reported that it had found falsification of coolant water temperatures at its Fukushima Daiichi plant in 1985 and 1988, and that the tweaked data was used in mandatory inspections at the plant, which were completed in October 2005.

And in 2007, TEPCO reported that it had found more past data falsifications, though this time it did not have to close any of its plants.

Writing by Jonathan Thatcher; Editing by John Chalmers