Heavy fallout from Japan nuclear scandal
TOKYO, Japan (CNN) -- The president, vice president and chairman of Japan's largest utility are quitting following a nuclear safety scandal, along with two advisers.
The Monday announcements came after Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO) admitted last week that it may have failed to accurately report cracks at its nuclear reactors in the late 1980s and 1990s.
The company and the Japanese government are probing whether workers covered up reports of the cracks.
TEPCO is suspected of falsifying 29 cases of safety repair records.
The company's nuclear reactor is the world's largest, and will be shut down temporarily along with four others for urgent safety checks.
Japan's nuclear power industry provides a third of the country's electrical power, and has been criticized for other accidents in recent years.
'No room for excuses'
TEPCO shares skidded again on Monday after two weeks of declines, ending down more than 2 percent at the close.
"There is no room for excuses," TEPCO President Nobuya Minami said on Monday, as he announced he would leave his post in mid-October.
"I deeply regret the incident and cannot apologize enough for it."
Minami said he would reveal in mid-September the results of TEPCO's probe.
Chairman Hiroshi Araki, Vice President Toshiaki Enomoto and advisers Shoh Nasu and Gaishi Hiraiwa will step down at the end of September.
"What I thought was impossible has actually occurred," Minami said this weekend, according to the Asahi Shimbun.
"As I failed to perceive it, I think managerial responsibility lies with me."
Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) vice minister Seiji Murata said that Trade Minister Takeo Hiranuma branded the company's actions as "unacceptable."
"It betrayed the public's trust over nuclear energy," Hiranuma told Murata.
METI says it has evidence of false inspection records, with the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency saying that up to eight reactors may still be running with unfixed cracks, though the cracks don't pose an immediate threat.
The company is conducting an inquiry of its own, and has submitted a list of 29 cases of possible cover-ups of cracks on the core of 13 nuclear reactors, at three plants.
The Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency inspects nuclear plants in Japan every 13 months, checking the cooling system and other essential parts.
But it leaves the inspection of the shrouds and pumps around the core to the company, which is required to report flaws.
TEPCO contracted its testing to General Electric International Inc., GE's Japan subsidiary. Local media report that cracks were found on the reactor shrouds.
Defective shrouds, important nonfuel parts of a reactor, are normally replaced in Japan but may be repaired in the United States or Europe, or even left alone if the cracks aren't serious.
A GE insider reportedly informed the Ministry of International Trade and Industry as far back as July 2000.
GE officials then approached Minami in March about launching an investigation into possible false reporting.
GE workers inspected the shrouds while TEPCO workers were present. TEPCO workers then may have failed to report cracks to senior officials, the Nikkei Weekly reports, because they determined they were not significant.
TEPCO stock was down 2.04 percent at 2,395 yen at the close Monday, underperforming the broad Topix, which was off 1.2 percent. Though the possible cover-up has been long running, TEPCO has dropped about 10 percent in the last two weeks.
The scandal comes amid a lengthening list of corporate misconduct in Japan.
The Nikkei reported on Monday that Mitsui & Co. President Shinjiro Shimizu and Chairman Shigeji Ueshima are under pressure to resign.
They are likely to step down to take responsibility over alleged bribes by Mitsui workers to a Mongolian official, to win an order on a diesel-power facility there.
Computer problems hit three nuclear plants in Japan
January 3, 2000
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