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Fukushima: Tokyo was on the brink of nuclear catastrophe, admits former prime minister via The Telegraph

Five years on from the tsunami, the former Japanese prime minister says the country came within a “paper-thin margin” of a nuclear disaster

Japan’s prime minister at the time of the 2011 earthquake and tsunami has revealed that the country came within a “paper-thin margin” of a nuclear disaster requiring the evacuation of 50 million people.

In an interview with The Telegraph to mark the fifth anniversary of the tragedy, Naoto Kan described the panic and disarray at the highest levels of the Japanese government as it fought to control multiple meltdowns at the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power station.

He said he considered evacuating the capital, Tokyo, along with all other areas within 160 miles of the plant, and declaring martial law. “The future existence of Japan as a whole was at stake,” he said. “Something on that scale, an evacuation of 50 million, it would have been like a losing a huge war.”

[…]

Mr Terasaka, the director of the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency, was later sacked. Another member of Mr Kan’s crisis working group, the then Tepco chairman, Tsunehisa Katsumata, was last week indicted on charges of criminal negligence for his role in the disaster.

The 9.0 magnitude quake, the largest ever recorded in Japan, triggered a gigantic tsunami which broke through the plant’s flood defences, cutting off power to its control room and the coolant systems of its nuclear reactors.

Deprived of cooling, radioactive fuel, in three of the plant’s six reactors melted down. Explosive hydrogen gas built up, blowing holes in the reactor containment building and allowing radioactivity to escape.

[…]

Mr Kan said that the nuclear accident is “still going on” today. He said: “In reactors 2 and 3, the radioactive fuel rods are still there and small amounts of [radioactive] water are leaking out of the reactor every day, despite what Tepco says.”

He said the experience had turned him from a supporter of nuclear power into a convinced opponent. “I have changed my views 180 degrees. You have to look at the balance between the risks and the benefits,” he said. “One reactor meltdown could destroy the whole plant and, however unlikely, that is too great a risk.”

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