Former Japanese leader: 'I felt fear' during nuclear crisis

Former Japanese prime minister Naoto Kan speaks at a parliamentary commission in Tokyo on May 28, 2012.

Story highlights

  • Kan says his government refused the help of U.S. nuclear experts
  • TEPCO wanted to evacuate its power plant during the meltdown, he says
  • "The safest nuclear policy is not to have any nuclear plants," according to Kan
  • Kan testified before a parliamentary panel Monday

Former Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan said he was overwhelmed and afraid during last year's nuclear meltdown at the Fukushima Daiichi plant, acknowledging that little has been done since then to ensure that another nuclear disaster will not occur.

Sounding like a fiery anti-nuclear activist, Kan Monday testified before a panel appointed by parliament to investigate the nuclear disaster.

"There wasn't much information coming to me" from the government regulatory agency, NISA, or the plant's operator, TEPCO, Kan said. "I thought I couldn't make any countermeasures in this crisis. I felt fear."

During his testimony, Kan turned a critical finger on himself, Japan's bureaucrats and TEPCO, saying all were hoping the situation would not spiral more out of control. He said all often were more worried about protecting their jobs and turf than public safety.

Kan specifically pointed to a request from TEPCO to evacuate the Fukushima plant -- a request he refused.

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"The worst case scenario was that 30 million people would have to evacuate from the capital (Tokyo)," Kan told the panel. "That would come to within one inch of the end of this nation."

Kan said he did his best to share information with the public, but admitted there weren't many verified facts to share.

Over the weekend, Yukio Edano, Kan's former chief cabinet secretary, testified that his office rejected a U.S. offer to supply nuclear experts, saying it was "not appropriate." Kan told the panel that he heard about the U.S. offer after the fact, but supported Edano's decision.

Kan also spoke about Japan's so-called "nuclear village." That's the term used to describe the utilities, nuclear regulators, bureaucrats and academics who support the usage of nuclear energy in Japan. It's a group Kan said shows no remorse for the disaster.

The first priority of Japan's new nuclear policy should be to dismantle the power of the nuclear village, along with all nuclear power plants, Kan said.

"I would like to say to the Japanese and to the world -- the safest nuclear policy is not to have any nuclear plants."

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