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Government offices, businesses rush to confirm use of data-falsified shock absorbers

KYB Corp. President and Chairman Yasusuke Nakajima, Kayaba System Machinery Co. President Shigeki Hirokado and KYB board member Keisuke Saito bow in apology at a press conference at the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism, in Tokyo, on Oct. 16, 2018. (Mainichi/Koichiro Tezuka)

TOKYO -- Government offices and businesses are rushing to check whether their buildings use seismic shock absorbers produced by leading manufacturer KYB Corp. and a subsidiary, after the company admitted the devices' quality inspection data had been falsified.

Facilities related to nuclear power plants, and tourist facilities popular among foreign visitors, are among those that employ the quake shock absorbers. As these facilities demand high levels of safety, the data doctoring, first made public on Oct. 16, has stirred deep concerns.

After observing the long-period ground motion in the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake, the Tokyo Metropolitan Government pursued quake-resistance measures for its two main buildings from fiscal 2014. It plans to install 298 vibration control dampers by fiscal 2020 and has already installed 214 KYB products. The metropolitan government is in a hurry to determine if quality inspection data for those devices was falsified, but the Tokyo-based manufacturer had not replied as of the afternoon of Oct. 17.

"If (the seismic dampers) need to be replaced, it will certainly hinder our operations seriously," a perplexed representative said.

The Japan Atomic Power Co. (JAPC)'s Tsuruga nuclear power plant in Fukui Prefecture in central Japan also uses KYB oil dampers in its seismically isolated building, which serves as a hub to deal with problems in case of an emergency. A representative of JAPC commented, "We hope to find out if the data of the devices has been fabricated, then consider an appropriate response."

Chubu Electric Power Co.'s Hamaoka Nuclear Power Station in Shizuoka Prefecture and Shikoku Electric Power Co.'s Ikata nuclear power plant in Ehime Prefecture, respectively located in central and southwestern Japan, may also be using the same type of shock absorbers. However in both cases, nuclear reactors are not located in the concerned buildings.

Besides nuclear facilities, the shock absorbers at the center of the controversy are believed to have been installed in various tourist facilities popular among inbound foreign visitors. These include Tsutenkaku Tower in the western Japan city of Osaka, which was renovated between October 2014 and June 2016. Tsutenkaku Kanko Co. vice president Ryuko Takai stated, "We don't have any plans for temporary closure, but we want information quickly." Tokyo Skytree in the capital and Oita Prefectural Art Museum in the south of the country might also be using the same type of shock absorbers.

There are concerns on the effect KYB's data falsification will have on development and maintenance work on venues for the 2020 Tokyo Games. The Olympic Aquatics Center, which will hold swimming competitions and Ariake Arena, which will stage the volleyball and other sports competitions, both use KYB oil dampers. Although the construction period may be extended if the devices require replacement, a representative of the Tokyo Metropolitan Government affirmed that the facilities would still be completed "in time for the games."

(Japanese original by Akira Okubo, City News Department)

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