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Fukushima: Japan's leaders considered evacuating Tokyo after March 11 nuclear disaster

Given an unprecedented level of access, private researchers have analyzed the system failures of the nuclear disaster that followed the March 11 earthquake and tsunami.

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Members of the media wearing protective suits and masks are escorted at the Tokyo Electric Power Company’s tsunami-crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant on Feb 20. (ISSEI KATO/AFP/Getty Images)

A crisis-stricken Japanese government considered evacuating Tokyo in March last year after an earthquake and tsunami caused a nuclear catastrophe at the Fukushima Daiichi power plant, according to a new report cited by The New York Times.

While leaders sought to calm the public, playing down the risks to public health and safety, they privately did not know the gravity of the damage or the extent of the problem, The Times said, citing the report by the Rebuild Japan Initiative Foundation, which the newspaper described as a new private organization devoted to policy matters.

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The nuclear disaster of March 11, 2011, the largest in 25 years, was caused first by a 9.0 magnitude earthquake followd by a 40-foot tsunami, which together caused a chain reaction of systems failures leading to the meltdown of three reactors and hydrogen explosions. The earthquake and tsunami are estimated together to have killed about 20,000 people and up to a thousand are expected to develop lethal cancers as a result of radiation exposure, according to Wikipedia.

The Times said the research team were granted extraordinary access in part due to the public’s clamor for greater accountability. Members conducted interviews with 300 people, including senior officials right up to Prime Minister Naoto Kan, according to The Times, which said the report described a breakdown in communication due to mistrust between the premier’s office, the plant manager and Tepco, the company which operates it.

The mood at the premier’s residence darkened as successive hydrogen explosions occurred at the plant on March 14 and March 15, according to The Times.

The report is not due to be released publicly until next week.

More from GlobalPost: Japan's Fukushima nuclear power plant leaks water for at least the third time this month

Meanwhile, the Agence France- Press news agency reported Sunday that Japan’s government was seeking to replace the entire board of Tepco in exchange for a $12 billion public bailout.


 

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/asia-pacific/japan/120227/fukushima-japans-leaders-considered-evacuating-tokyo