Report: Gov't "collapsed" during Japan nuke crisis

The one year anniversary of the devastating earthquake and tsunami in Japan is less than two weeks away, but details about the nuclear meltdown that happened that tragic day are just beginning to emerge.

On Feb. 27, a news helicopter was allowed close enough to get a good glimpse of the crippled Fukushima Dai-Ichi nuclear power plant. Today, a report revealed the chaos between Japan's leaders during the crisis.

"The normal lines of authority completely collapsed," Tetsuro Fukuyama, the prime minister's adviser, told investigators.

CBS News correspondent Lucy Craft reported that in the hours after the tsunami struck the nuclear plant, Japanese officials huddled in an emergency bunker struggled to grasp the size of the catastrophe.

"As we listened to our top nuclear experts, we politicians had no idea what they were talking about. Was anyone going to suffer radiation contamination? Would this be another Chernobyl or Three Mile Island? No one could give us a straight answer," Fukuyama recalled in the report.

After 300 interviews with officials and nuclear experts, the report said government was partially at fault for not having an emergency plan if a magnitude 9.0 earthquake struck the country.

However, investigators concluded the plant's operator, Tokyo Electric, was to blame for the majority of the problems. "They were astonishingly unprepared for this nuclear accident," lead investigator Youichi Funabash told CBS News.

It seems that Tokyo Electric was unprepared for a power failure. Without electricity, the cores of the reactor couldn't stay cool, and it triggered explosions and meltdowns.

With little information from the plant, Fukuyama said that the government thought that a nuclear meltdown was impending, and feared that a massive cloud of radiation would force the evacuation of 30 million people in the Tokyo region.

As a last-ditch effort, the Japanese government discussed "suicide squad" made up of men over 65 years old to ascertain the damage first hand. Fukuyama said he would lead the group.

"Terrified doesn't begin to describe how we felt," Fukuyama told investigators months after the scare. A "no go" zone still remains around the plant because radiation levels are too high. Clean up at the plant is estimated to take 40 years.

"When we learned the reactors had in fact melted down, I was overwhelmed, by our inability," he added.

  • Lucy Craft

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