It was the world's worst nuclear crisis for 25 years. But now, Japan's energy minister has admitted no one thought of keeping records of top-level discussions in the critical early days after disaster struck at the Fukushima plant.
The admission, and apology, by Yukio Edano comes in the face of widespread debate about the government's response to the the crisis, which was triggered by a massive earthquake and tsunami last March.
"It is inconceivable that there were no records kept. It may have been difficult to keep official logs during the extreme confusion after the crisis, but they could have taken simple memos," said Kenji Sumita, an emeritus professor at Osaka University who specialises in nuclear engineering. "Perhaps there were some goings-on that the participants did not feel comfortable being made public."
A government task force was set up by then-Prime Minister Naoto Kan to deal with the nuclear disaster. Its failure to keep records emerged after public broadcaster NHK sought details of its discussions. NHK said it found only one-page logs which listed the agenda items discussed at each meeting. Several panels are currently investigating the government handling of the crisis.
Mr Edano, who was the top government spokesman when the disaster struck and now holds the energy portfolio, apologised for the lapse and said officials would try to cobble together a record of the meetings. "It is truly regrettable that records of the task force's meetings were not consistently kept," he told reporters.
More than 80,000 people have been moved from the area since the Fukushima plant was damaged and there are still concerns about leaking radiation. Japan has said that the catastrophe at the nuclear plant could take four decades to clean up.