TOKYO — A top government official defended Japan’s response to the humanitarian and nuclear crises set off by last month’s natural disasters, saying yesterday that the scale of the earthquake and tsunami that killed thousands and damaged a nuclear power station far surpassed what specialists had planned for.
Responses to disasters are rarely perfect, said Yukio Edano, the chief Cabinet secretary. But given the enormity of the catastrophe, which included the largest earthquake ever recorded in Japan and a historic tsunami, the government has done all that it could, he said.
“I believe we have selected the best option every time’’ a new decision had to be made, he said in an interview with several foreign news outlets.
Edano said the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station is “a stable situation, relatively speaking,’’ but that much work remains before the damaged reactors, which are emitting high levels of radioactivity, are fully under control.
“The situation, I have to admit, is somewhat bleak, and it is very difficult,’’ he said.
He declined to speculate on what the government could have done differently in the aftermath of the disaster on March 11, when a 9.0 magnitude earthquake struck off the coast of northeast Japan and unleashed a tsunami that slammed into Honshu island.
Detractors have said that nuclear regulators and Tokyo Electric Power Co., which operates the plant, did not act fast enough to prevent the explosions that damaged the reactor buildings and that efforts to cool the reactors and spent fuel pools with helicopters and water cannons were ineffective.