Japan's government planned to evacuate 13m from Tokyo after Fukushima crisis
THE Japanese government drew up plans to evacuate the 13 million residents of Tokyo as it feared a series of explosions at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant in March of last year would be the end of the city.
The worst-case scenario was detailed in a report by an independent panel investigating the government's handling of the crisis.
The situation was so critical that Yukio Edano, the chief cabinet secretary, told the panel that he had a "demonic scenario in my head" in which the four reactors at the plant all exploded, triggering explosions at other nearby nuclear facilities.
"If that happens, Tokyo will be finished," he thought at the time.
The report has been compiled by the Rebuild Japan Initiative Foundation, which interviewed more than 300 people involved in handling the crisis at the Fukushima plant, which was crippled by a massive tsunami triggered by the March 11 Great East Japan Earthquake.
As well as Mr Edano – who was stating in public that there was no reason to be concerned in the days immediately after the disaster – the investigators quizzed Naoto Kan, who was prime minister at the time.
The report, which will be released later this week, says there was a breakdown in trust between Mr Kan's emergency headquarters, the headquarters of Tokyo Electric Power Co. and the manager of the plant, which caused exchanges of contradictory and confusing information in the initial days of the crisis.
The report details phone calls by the manager of the plant, Masao Yoshida, to the government, saying that he could retrieve the situation if his staff remained at the plant at the same time as the president of Tepco, Masataka Shimizu, was calling to demand that he be permitted to evacuate all staff immediately.
Mr Yoshida ignored orders from his superiors in Tokyo not to use seawater to cool the overheating reactors, the report states. The plant manager is widely regarded as having put his own life on the line to avoid an even more catastrophic disaster engulfing the plant.
Mr Kan apparently turned down Mr Shimizu's request to evacuate the plant.
As late as March 16, there were fears in Tokyo that 10,000 spent fuel rods stored in pools near the reactors had been exposed to the air and could be leaking huge amounts of radiation.
"We barely avoided the worst-case scenario, although the public did not know it at the time," said Yoichi Funabashi, who set up the foundation.
The 400-page report also underlines suspicions in the United States that Tokyo was not being completely honest with its closest ally about the scale of the problems.
But it was the government's decision not to warn the Japanese public about the true scale of the danger at the peak of the crisis that led Mr Funabashi to conduct the investigation, he said, although officials of Tepco refused to co-operate.