Damage at Fukushima Daiichi as seen on March 18 (photo: DigitalGlobe)

Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) missed required deadlines to inspect key equipment that failed after the massive earthquake and tsunami hit the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, according to Reuters.  A separate Reuters report also points out that the TEPCO CEO has virtually disappeared from public appearances or statements. These reports fit perfectly with TEPCO’s history of previous scandals that have led to the resignations of high-level managers in the past.

Most analyses of the crisis at the Fukushima Daiichi plant identify the failure of the diesel generators to provide electricity to the pumps which circulate water to cool the reactor cores and spent fuel pools at the six nuclear reactors as the key event that led to overheating of nuclear material. On Monday, Reuters reported that TEPCO’s website and the website of Japan’s nuclear regulatory agency document that TEPCO missed required deadlines for inspection of a number of pieces of equipment, including a diesel generator for reactor number one:

In a report submitted to Japan’s nuclear safety agency on February 28, Japan’s largest power utility, Tokyo Electric Power Co, said it had failed to inspect 33 pieces of equipment in the six reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi complex.

The equipment missed in scheduled inspections included a motor and a backup power generator for the No. 1 reactor, the firm said in a report available on a company website.

Reflecting a level of coziness between the regulated and regulators that reminds one of the way MMS allowed BP to run roughshod over it without filing a proper environmental impact statement for the Deepwater Horizon well, the regulatory agency in Japan responded that TEPCO’s inspection failure wasn’t likely to result in harm:

The nuclear safety agency said in its March 2 response, available on the agency’s website, that it did not believe there was an immediate risk to safety as a result of the missed inspections.

Oops.

On Sunday, Reuters pointed out that TEPCO CEO Masataka Shimizu has not been seen in public in a week:

Masataka Shimizu, chief executive of Tokyo Electric Power Co (TEPCO), has not made a public appearance in a week.

And he has yet to visit the crippled nuclear power plant north of Tokyo that was badly damaged in the massive earthquake and tsunami that struck on March 11, and where 300 workers are desperately trying to find ways to cool down the reactors.

The article also notes that Shimizu has left it to lower level spokespeople to respond to the frustrated requests for information from Japan’s press. This behavior is not going over well with at least one nuclear energy foe in Japan’s parliament:

Taro Kono, a prominent member of parliament with the Liberal Democratic Party and an opponent of nuclear power, was more blunt about TEPCO officials: “They don’t tell the truth … It’s in their DNA.”

The highest-ranking of the spokespeople on whom Shimizu has relied appears to be Managing Director Akio Komiri, who was seen in poignant photos crying as he left a press conference on Saturday.

Will the Japanese government hold TEPCO responsible for this disaster, or will the US example of giving a free pass to BP be repeated?