I was frightened by nuclear crisis: Japan`s ex-PM

Japan`s leader lacked experts capable of giving him guidance, he testified on Monday.

Tokyo: Japan`s leader felt fearful and helpless during last year`s nuclear disaster and lacked experts capable of giving him guidance, he testified on Monday in his first response to a public investigative inquiry on the crisis.

Naoto Kan resigned in September after being criticised for government failures during the disaster.

He told the parliamentary panel he felt afraid when nuclear officials kept failing to explain conditions at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, where three reactors melted down following the magnitude 9.0 earthquake and tsunami on March 11, 2011.

Kan also said the country`s nuclear emergency preparedness law, set up in 1999 after a fatal accident at a nuclear fuel processing plant, did not address a severe accident that would require hundreds of thousands of people to evacuate, as in Fukushima.

"Everything anticipated in the law was inadequate, and we had to go through all kinds of troubles that we didn`t need," he said. For instance, the plant`s off-site crisis management centre, which had no protection for radiation or backup power, had to be abandoned.

Kan said nuclear officials sent from government offices and the utility operating the plant as his advisers were not useful, and he never received the kind of information he needed. Japan`s main regulatory body, the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency, was particularly incapable, he said.

"I was frightened and felt helpless," he said. "You can`t expect a nuclear expert to be prime minister or Cabinet minister, so we need top regulatory officials to provide expertise and help us. We didn`t have those people."

NISA`s top officials, who are not nuclear experts, have acknowledged the need to improve their resources.

Officials have also said information disclosure was slow and at times wrong, particularly in the immediate aftermath.

They also cited poor communication and coordination between nuclear regulators, utility officials and the government.