Japan feared Fukushima could 'finish' Tokyo

Nuke fright

A worst-case scenario sketched out by the Japanese government foresaw the end of Tokyo in a chain of nuclear explosions that would mean evacuating the city, an independent panel said on Tuesday.

Plans were drawn up for the mass withdrawal from the capital as at least one senior minister fretted that meltdowns at Fukushima might spark crises at reactors all along the coast and engulf the city of 13 million people.

The revelations came in a 400-page report published by a panel of experts who were given free rein to probe the events surrounding the world’s worst nuclear crisis in a generation.

“I had this demonic scenario in my head” that nuclear reactors could break down one after another, then chief cabinet secretary Yukio Edano told the panel. “If that happens Tokyo will be finished,” he said, according to the report.

The panel said as the situation on Japan’s tsunami-wrecked coast worsened, Fukushima operator Tokyo Electric Power (TEPCO) had wanted to abandon the plant and evacuate its workers.

But the utility, which refused to cooperate with the study, was ordered to keep men on site by then prime minister Naoto Kan.
Experts concluded that if the premier had not stuck to his guns, Fukushima would have spiralled further out of control, with catastrophic consequences.

“When the prime minister’s office was aware of the risk the country may not survive (the crisis)... TEPCO’s president (Masataka) Shimizu... frantically called” to tell the premier he wanted his staff to leave the crippled nuclear reactor, panel head Koichi Kitazawa told a news conference.

He said Kan’s refusal to bow to TEPCO’s demand had averted a worse crisis.

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