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Japanese leaders secretly considered evacuating Tokyo over Fukushima nuke crisis: Report

Tokyo, Tue, 28 Feb 2012 ANI

Tokyo, Feb 28 (ANI): A new report has revealed that Japanese leaders secretly considered evacuating Tokyo, as the crisis unfolded at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant in March 2011 following the massive earthquake and tsunami.


Even though they tried to play down the risks in public, Japanese leaders reportedly planned this move over uncertainty about the actual extent of damage at the plant, The New York Times reports.


The new report also detailed communications breakdowns between Masataka Shimizu, president of Tokyo Electric Power, and the stricken plant's manager.


According to the paper, a team of 30 university professors, lawyers and journalists spent more than six months on the inquiry into Japan's response to the triple meltdown at the plant, which followed a powerful earthquake and tsunami on March 11 that shut down the plant's cooling systems.


According to the report quoted by the paper, the team interviewed over 300 people, including top nuclear regulators and government officials, and Prime Minister Naoto Kan during the crisis. They were granted extraordinary access, in part because of a strong public demand for greater accountability and because the organization's founder, Yoichi Funabashi, a former editor in chief of the daily newspaper Asahi Shimbun, is one of Japan's most respected public intellectuals.


An advance copy of the report accessed by the paper describes how Japan's response was hindered at times by a debilitating breakdown in trust between Kan, the Tokyo headquarters of the plant's operator, Tokyo Electric Power, (TEPCO), and the manager at the stricken plant.


The 400-page report, due to be released later this week, also describes a darkening mood at the prime minister's residence as a series of hydrogen explosions rocked the plant on March 14 and 15. It says Kan and other officials began discussing a worst-case outcome if workers at the Fukushima Daiichi plant were evacuated.


The report quotes the chief cabinet secretary at the time, Yukio Edano, as having warned that such a "demonic chain reaction" of plant meltdowns could result in the evacuation of Tokyo, 150 miles to the south.


"We would lose Fukushima Daini, then we would lose Tokai," Edano said, naming two other nuclear plants.


"If that happened, it was only logical to conclude that we would also lose Tokyo itself," Edano added.


The report also describes the panic within the Kan administration at the prospect of large radiation releases from the over 10,000 spent fuel rods that were stored in relatively unprotected pools near the damaged reactors.


It said that it was not until five days after the earthquake that a Japanese military helicopter was finally able to confirm that the pool deemed at highest risk, near the reactor number four was still safely filled with water.


"We barely avoided the worst-case scenario, though the public didn't know it at the time," Funabashi, the foundation founder, said. (ANI)


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