Japanese officials were told that last year's nuclear disaster could have required the evacuation of tens of millions—but they didn't mention it, worried that the information might cause a panic. A 15-page report, given to the prime minister two weeks after the earthquake, was obtained by the AP and Japanese media. It says that meltdowns could cause vast amounts of radiation and necessitate the evacuation of homes within at least a 105-mile radius of the Fukushima Dai-ichi plant.
That would have meant emptying Tokyo of its 35 million residents, plus more than a million others from surrounding areas. "We cannot rule out further developments that may lead to an unpredictable situation at Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant," the report said, noting that the area might remain dangerous for "several decades." Despite the report, officials said residents need not fear larger evacuations. One noted that "it was a scenario based on hypothesis, and even in the event of such a development, we were told that residents would have enough time to evacuate." (Read more Fukushima Dai-ichi stories.)