The report quotes the chief cabinet secretary at the time, Yukio Edano, as having warned that such a “demonic chain reaction” of plant meltdowns could result in the evacuation of Tokyo, 150 miles to the south.
“We would lose Fukushima Daini, then we would lose Tokai,” Mr. Edano is quoted as saying, naming two other nuclear plants. “If that happened, it was only logical to conclude that we would also lose Tokyo itself.”
The report also describes the panic within the Kan administration at the prospect of large radiation releases from the more than 10,000 spent fuel rods that were stored in relatively unprotected pools near the damaged reactors. The report says it was not until five days after the earthquake that a Japanese military helicopter was finally able to confirm that the pool deemed at highest risk, near the No. 4 reactor, was still safely filled with water.
“We barely avoided the worst-case scenario, though the public didn’t know it at the time,” Mr. Funabashi, the foundation founder, said.
Agreed. From everyone I've met who was in the thick of it, they were aware that there were two truths going on: 1) that things are bad but would get better because Japan is a resilient country that can bear through it and had many friends willing to lend aid (the official word), and 2) the official word was being used in large part to avoid inciting panic and that the midden could hit the fan in a much bigger way at any time. Being an island nation and homogenized as Japan is, they're used to dealing with natural disasters as virtually no other country is with some of the most robust emergency drill practices and building codes in the world. When the ring of fire is your backyard, you can't really afford to take chances or cut corners. Hell, even their Mafia the Yakuza, as awful as they are, always can be seen doing their part to help the helpless in times of disaster.
So, tl;dr version, they would adapted and dealt with it. It's Japan.
I think they made the right move, honestly. I have no doubt that the second they were sure shit was beyond control, they would have taken the necessary measures.
I'm sure some people are going to go on about "they lied to us!" Screw those people. Japan appears to have one of the few governments on this planet that genuinely cares about it's people. And while it's surprising (to me anyways) that they were much, much closer to catastrophe then they let on, I agree with most everyone else's sentiments on here. If there is one country on Earth that could handle something like this, it's Japan.
It's based on worst-case scenario assessments. It's still a concern, and I have no doubt efforts are in place to rectify the situation. But you can't help but wonder, when an article states in plain language that this concern will be the end of humanity if we don't fix it... that just screams sensationalism to me. I do agree that we need immediate action, and think probably the best solution is to pay France or Russia to take the nuclear material (since they already reprocess fuel, their infrastructure is set up for this), until a longer-term solution can be found. The US is going to have the same problem, because we have an open fuel cycle, rather than reprocessing our fuel to get maximum burn up.
"What must be admitted -- very painfully -- is that this was a disaster 'Made in Japan,'" the report said. "Its fundamental causes are to be found in the ingrained conventions of Japanese culture: our reflexive obedience; our reluctance to question authority; our devotion to 'sticking with the program.'"
A story that isn't sensationalist in both headline and content, highly inflammatory and a beacon of poor, biased journalism? Pssh, that doesn't cut the mustard in the US.
It's for the same reason if NRC inspectors give a nuke plant an upcheck during the scheduled annual inspection, the news story reads, "NRC Workers On Site Due to Potential Problems at Nuclear Plant."
I work at a nuke lab, and our news reads significantly different than standard news media, but then, we get actual, scientific information, briefings, and reports. It can still show a little bias from time to time, but for the most part, it's just technical information without fluff and emotion. I think the DOE/NNSA/NRC/IAEA joint commission report was passed around here regarding Fukushima close to a year ago, which was a few months beyond when the workers were supposed to be dead from radiation sickness.
That's more NRC business, but we see things about them. That reactor in Ohio isn't what you call "a shining example." Too many incidents, corner-cutting, etc. But it's nothing compared to the problems they've had (and are going to have if they don't do something) at San Onofre.
If you're well-informed, could you fill us in on the problems at San Onofre? I live(d) in the San Diego area, so it was in the local news a lot, but I never was able to find what the actual problems were, beyond, I dunno, something with pipes or seals leaking?