Last updated at 18:00 BST, Friday, 06 May 2011

Electricity company criticised over communication

Summary

16 March 2011

The Tokyo Electric Power Company has been criticised for not telling the public very much about emergency repairs at the Fukushima nuclear power station. Engineers are still trying to cool down the nuclear rods and prevent a major radiation leak.

Reporter:
Mark Gregory

Reactors 1, 2, 3 and 4 at Tokyo Electric Power Company Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant in northern Japan

Technicians have battled to prevent further explosions at the power station

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Report

Usually, governments take the lead in national emergencies, but not in this one. Staving off catastrophe at Japan's Fukushima power complex has been primarily the responsibility of a commercial concern: The Tokyo Electric Power Company, or Tepco, which runs the site.

There's mounting concern in Japan at Tepco's handling of the crisis. In particular, the firm has been accused of failing to communicate. There've been reports of the firm's public spokesman appearing ill-informed and evasive in dealing with journalists at press conferences. The Japanese prime minister was reported to have been furious on Tuesday, when the company failed to inform him of a new fire at one of the affected reactors for an hour after it knew of this serious escalation in the crisis.

Nuclear experts outside Japan have complained the company has kept them in the dark, by releasing information slowly and with little detail. The company, of course, has a lot to contend with. Public relations probably ranks low on the list of priorities, as Tepco grapples with a complex nuclear emergency in a region devastated by a major earthquake.

Tepco is the world's fourth largest power utility company. It supplies about a third of Japan's electricity. The firm's reputation has yet to fully recover from accusations levelled in 2002. A Japanese government report found evidence of false reporting in routine inspections, and a pattern of concealment of safety lapses over many years.

Mark Gregory, BBC News

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Vocabulary

staving off

preventing or avoiding

a commercial concern

a business or company

mounting concern

increasing or growing anxiety

ill-informed

not to know all the facts of what happened

escalation

increase in size or intensity

kept them in the dark

made certain they were not fully up to date about what happened

to contend with

to cope or deal with

levelled

made against them

a pattern of concealment

a period of time when efforts were made to hide facts or the truth

lapses

small mistakes or failures

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