The Japanese government and TEPCO were scrambling to reassure people Friday that they have a lid on Fukushima after a senior utility executive said the nuclear plant was "not under control".
The remarks by Kazuhiko Yamashita, who holds the executive-level title of "fellow" at Tokyo Electric Power, seem to flatly contradict assurances Prime Minister Shinzo Abe gave Olympic chiefs a week earlier.
In a meeting with members of the opposition Democratic Party of Japan, Yamashita was asked whether he agreed that "the situation is under control" as Abe had declared at the International Olympic Committee meeting in Buenos Aires.
He responded by saying, "I think the current situation is that it is not under control," according to major media, including national broadcaster NHK.
News of his comment prompted a rush by the government and TEPCO to elaborate on Yamashita's remark, saying he was talking specifically about the plant's waste water problem, and not the facility's situation in general.
Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga, Abe's right-hand man, separately said Yamashita was repeatedly pressed by DPJ lawmakers when he made the remark.