WSJ: TEPCO initially resisted using seawater to cool reactors; harm to "valuable power assets" feared (UPDATED)

[ UPDATE: Joi Ito has been blogging about lies, corruption, and safety breaches with TEPCO for nearly ten years. Links to a couple of his 2002-2003 TEPCO posts at the bottom of this Boing Boing item.--XJ ]

In the Wall Street Journal, news that critical early efforts to stave off crisis at the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant were delayed by the operator's concerns over damaging "valuable assets," and by "initial passivity" on the part of Japan's government. Snip from WSJ:

tepco.jpgTepco was reluctant to use seawater because it worried about hurting its long-term investment in the complex, say people involved with the efforts. Seawater, which can render a nuclear reactor permanently inoperable, now is at the center of efforts to keep the plant under control.

Tepco "hesitated because it tried to protect its assets," said Akira Omoto, a former Tepco executive and a member of the Japan Atomic Energy Commission, an official advisory body involved in the effort to tame the plant. Both Tepco and government officials had good reason not to use saltwater, Mr. Omoto added. Early on, nuclear fuel rods were still under cooling water and undamaged, he said, adding, "it's understandable because injecting seawater into the fuel vessel renders it unusable."

"Bid to 'Protect Assets' Slowed Reactor Fight" (WSJ)

As an aside, this PDF "TEPCO 2020 Corporate Vision Statement" is a little surreal in hindsight, and references an earlier quake-triggered crisis:

[W]e confronted a crisis situation never before encountered in the history of our company. The devastating Niigata-Chuetsu-Oki Earthquake of July 16, 2007 caused all units at the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa Nuclear Power Station to be shut down, and left us with a mountain of challenges in maintaining stable supply of electricity, making ends meets, and addressing environmental impacts.

We devoted our efforts to overcoming the crisis and creating a tougher business foundation by taking measures so that our nuclear power plants can withstand disasters, strengthening our relationship with local communities and residents to retain their confidence, and enforcing strict policies for business improvement.

The TEPCO Group will pursue a new vision befitting the coming times, to ultimately create an affluent and comfortable future.

Yeah, well, guess that didn't work out so great. Here's their corporate ethics and compliance statement, too.

Boing Boing readers may or may not be aware that TEPCO was tapped by the US government to build a power plant in South Texas; that project is touted in the brochure.


UPDATE: Blogger and tech entrepreneur Joi Ito posted about TEPCO's dirty dealings as far back as nearly 10 years ago. Start with these two posts, to get a sense of their long track record at being mendacious, profit-seeking, safety-compromising bastards.

"TEPCO lied over cracks at nuke plants (2002)"
• "Contacted by whistleblower on TEPCO nuclear reactor cover-up (2003)."