(CHICAGO TRIBUNE) — Japan’s prime minister ordered workers to remain at the tsunami-crippled Fukushima nuclear plant last March as fears mounted of a “devil’s chain reaction” that would force tens of millions of people to flee Tokyo, a new investigative report shows.

Then-premier Naoto Kan and his staff began referring to a worst case scenario that could threaten Japan’s existence as a nation around three days after the March 11 disaster, according to the report by a panel set up by a private think-tank.

That was when fears mounted that thousands of spent fuel rods stored at a damaged reactor would melt and spew radiation after a hydrogen explosion at an adjacent reactor building, according to the panel report.

Yukio Edano, then Japan’s top government spokesman, told the panel that at the height of tension he feared a “devil’s chain reaction” in which the Fukushima Daiichi plant and the nearby Fukushima Daini facility, as well as the Tokai nuclear plant, spiralled out of control, putting the capital at risk.

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