Prime Minister Naoto Kan speaks Monday during a House of Representatives special committee session on reconstruction of areas hit by the Great East Japan Earthquake.
Prime Minister Naoto Kan on Monday denied claims that he instructed Tokyo Electric Power Co. to stop injecting seawater into the No. 1 reactor at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant on March 12, a day after the plant was crippled by a massive earthquake and tsunami.
Speaking during a House of Representatives special committee session on reconstruction of areas hit by the Great East Japan Earthquake, Kan brushed aside criticism that his alleged directive may have worsened the nuclear crisis.
"We didn't receive any direct report [from TEPCO] when it started and stopped injection, and those of us at the Prime Minister's Office, including me, did nothing whatsoever to stop the injection," Kan said in answer to questions from Liberal Democratic Party President Sadakazu Tanigaki.
In his first direct Diet debate with the major opposition leader since the March 11 disaster, Kan said: "I couldn't have said 'stop' regarding something that wasn't reported to me."
According to the Government-TEPCO Integrated Response Office established under the Nuclear Emergency Response Headquarters chaired by Kan, the prime minister ordered the start of seawater injection at 7:55 p.m. on March 12.
Tanigaki pointed out that the injection starting order was issued at 6 p.m., according to the official Web site of the Prime Minister's Office, and asked Kan to explain the discrepancy.
"The 6 p.m. directive was a call to examine every possible danger [including re-criticality] if seawater was injected," Kan said.
Based on the LDP's judgment that the 6 p.m. order ultimately led injection to be suspended, Tanigaki blamed Kan, saying, "Allowing seawater injection to be suspended due to confusion within the government was a terrible mistake."
The integrated response office said Saturday that Kan sought the advice of Nuclear Safety Commission Chairman Haruki Madarame and that Madarame told Kan re-criticality could occur if seawater was injected.
However, the office amended the statement the following day, saying Madarame's answer to the prime minister had been "to the effect that the possibility was not zero."
Speaking during the Diet special committee session Monday, Madarame said: "Someone asked me [within the government on March 12], I think it was the prime minister, whether we should be concerned about re-criticality if seawater was injected. I said the possibility was 'not zero.'
"At any rate, I repeatedly said the injection of water should be continued."
Asked about the amendment of Madarame's statement, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano said it had been done at Madarame's request.
"If we can't get a clear answer [from the prime minister] about the initial response to the nuclear crisis, we'll have to deal with it firmly," Tanigaki said, suggesting again that the LDP will submit a no-confidence motion against the Cabinet to the current Diet session.