Japanese PM admits nuclear crisis failures

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JAPAN’S prime minister acknowledged yesterday the country’s government failed in its response to last year’s earthquake and tsunami, being too slow to relay key information and believing too much in “a myth of safety” about nuclear power.

“We can no longer make the excuse that what was unpredictable and outside our imagination has happened,” Yoshihiko Noda said. “Crisis management requires us to imagine what may be outside our imagination.” He was speaking ahead of the first anniversary of the 11 March disaster, the worst nuclear crisis since Chernobyl, which killed nearly 20,000 people in north-eastern Japan.

Japan has learned important lessons to be better prepared for tsunamis and avoid the power outages that sent several reactors into meltdown at the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant, he said.

The phrase “soteigai,” or “outside our imagination,” was used repeatedly by Tokyo Electric Power Company as the reason why it was not prepared for the giant tsunami that hit after the magnitude-9 quake.

Although some scholars had warned about tsunami risks, both the utility and regulators did little and kept backup generators in basements where they could be flooded. Japan has also drawn criticism as having been slow with information about the meltdowns and about radiation leaks into the air and the ocean.