Japan ex-PM Naoto Kan says state to blame for Fukushima

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Media captionThe BBC's Roland Buerk says the former prime minister said it was the state and he himself that bore the heaviest responsibility

Former Japanese leader Naoto Kan has told a parliamentary commission on the Fukushima disaster the state should be held responsible for the crisis.

Mr Kan, who was prime minister when tsunami damage tipped three nuclear reactors into meltdowns, also said he struggled to get a full picture of developments at the plant.

The panel has already heard from lawmakers and nuclear industry experts.

The commission is due to deliver its report in June.

Mr Kan has faced criticism that he got involved both too little and too much at different stages of the crisis.

"The nuclear accident was caused by a nuclear plant which operated as national policy," he said. "I believe the biggest portion of blame lies with the state."

He said that although specific technical issues at the plant were discussed, he was given no more general overview.

"There was no explanation of what the situation at the Dai-ichi site was, nor how the situation may unfold, nor what should be done if certain events occur," Mr Kan said. "Unfortunately there was no discussion on such topics whatsoever."

Fuel pond fears

On Sunday, Trade and Industry Minister Yukio Edano - who was the top government spokesman at the time - told the commission there had been no attempt to mislead the public about the severity of the crisis.

He said the government had not fully understood the extent of the damage to the plant.

He also said that Japan had refused a US request to place its nuclear experts in the prime minister's office, citing sovereignty issues.

At the Fukushima Daiichi plant itself, the reactors are now stable, Tepco says.

But there is concern about the spent fuel pool on the top floor of the badly damaged reactor number four building.

If it collapses, it could cause another catastrophe, officials have warned. But Tepco says it has reinforced the structure against another earthquake.

Meanwhile, tens of thousands of residents remain evacuated from an exclusion zone around the plant.

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