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Fukushima nuclear disaster is warning to the world, says power company boss via The Guardian

Exclusive: UK government must learn from Japan’s catastrophe as it plans a new generation of plant, nuclear chief claims

The catastrophic triple meltdown at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant in March 2011 was “a warning to the world” about the hazards of nuclear power and contained lessons for the British government as it plans a new generation of nuclear power stations, the man with overall responsibility for the operation in Japan has told the Guardian.

Speaking at his Tokyo corporate headquarters , Naomi Hirose, president of the Tokyo Electric Power Company (Tepco), which runs the stricken Fukushima plant, said Britain’s nuclear managers “should be prepared for the worst” in order to avoid repeating Japan’s traumatic experience. “We tried to persuade people that nuclear power is 100% safe. That was easy for both sides. Our side explains how safe nuclear power is. The other side is the people who listen and for them it is easy to hear OK, it’s safe, sure, why not?

“But we have to explain, no matter how small a possibility, what if this [safety] barrier is broken? We have to prepare a plan if something happens … It is easy to say this is almost perfect so we don’t have to worry about it. But we have to keep thinking: what if …”

British ministers recently agreed a commercial deal with the French state-owned energy company EDF Energy to build the UK’s first new nuclear reactor in a generation at Hinkley Point in Somerset. The agreement included the UK government providing accident insurance.

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“What happened at Fukushima was, yes, a warning to the world,” he said. The resulting lesson was clear: “Try to examine all the possibilities, no matter how small they are, and don’t think any single counter-measure is foolproof. Think about all different kinds of small counter-measures, not just one big solution. There’s not one single answer.

“We made a lot of excuses to ourselves … Looking back, seals on the doors, one little thing, could have saved everything.”

Tepco was willing to share its experience with British and other nuclear plant operators if they wished, Hirose said. “We can share all the information, all the data we obtained, that we learned from this accident, and then hope that people will use the data and information to prevent the same thing happening.”

Hirose confirmed that his company has paid a large price for the disaster. It planned to “streamline” the business and shed hundreds of jobs through voluntary retirement to keep itself in business. “We have a huge debt for the compensation for damages and losses and for decommissioning … We have to be sustainable as a going concern.”

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