Nuke fears set off crisis in Tokyo last March, says NYT

Very interesting piece by Martin Fackler.

The investigation of the response to Fukushima was made by an independent group. As Fackler explains:

The investigation by the Rebuild Japan Initiative Foundation, a new private policy organization, offered one of the most vivid accounts yet of how Japan teetered on the edge of an even larger nuclear crisis than the one that engulfed the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant. 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 massive earthquake and tsunami last March 11 that shut down the plant’s cooling systems.

. . .

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 Asahi Shimbun, is one of Japan’s most respected public intellectuals.

As you might imagine, the early days of the crisis were mess of conflicting data. Japan was a lot closer to losing the Fukushima reactors to explosions, and having to evacuate Tokyo. At the time, I said it felt like a slow-motion Chernobyl happening—with the public’s response at being made to be the sheep to be something as disrupting as Chernobyl was to the moribund Soviet system.

In fact, there was actually some chance of Fukushima being a explosion just like Chernobyl. What a mess that would have been!

According to the report, it was really former Prime Minister Kan that helped to prevent the situation from spiraling out of control. He insisted that TEPCO not evacuate the plants. TEPCO officials had wanted to cut and run, basically—which would have caused a disaster. Kan said: no way. According to the new account, this insistence saved Japan from a much worse disaster.