Records Show Confusion in U.S. at Start of Japan’s Atomic Crisis

WASHINGTON — Something resembling a “fog of war” prevailed at the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s headquarters in the first hours and days after the Fukushima accident began last March, the N.R.C.’s chairman said Tuesday, as the agency released a cache of transcripts of internal conference calls beginning hours after the earthquake.

The N.R.C. got some of its information from the Japanese government and the Tokyo Electric Power Company, or Tepco, the utility whose Fukushima Daiichi reactors were stricken by the tsunami after the quake, but a great deal of the information came from news accounts, according to various officials whose contemporaneous assessments were captured in the transcripts.

For example, on the second day of the crisis, one official referred to “unconfirmed reports of boiling” in spent fuel pools, but the reports did not say which of the six reactors were involved, a maddening ambiguity for officials who oversaw similar reactors in the United States....

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