An independent judicial panel has upheld the Tokyo prosecutors' decision last September not to indict former Prime Minister Naoto Kan and five other people over the disaster at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant, panel sources said.

The 11-member panel of citizens reviewed the case after residents in Fukushima Prefecture filed complaints against the six for alleged professional negligence resulting in injury and death of hospital patients. Then-Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano and Masataka Shimizu, former president of Tokyo Electric Power Co., were among the accused.

At issue was whether the government and Tepco failed to take sufficient steps to deal with the initial crisis after the earthquake and tsunami of March 11, 2011.

Kan, prime minister from 2010 to 2011, was accused of failing to promptly order venting to lessen the pressure in the reactor containers after the plant's power was knocked out and the reactors' cooling systems rendered useless.

The venting operation was carried out for reactor 1 nearly a day after the quake struck. A hydrogen explosion rocked the building several hours later. Hydrogen explosions also ripped through two other reactor buildings in the following days.

The panel said Kan and Tepco officials did not deliberately avoid taking venting steps, noting how Masao Yoshida, who headed the plant, took command of the situation when the crisis erupted.

Kan has been criticized for visiting the plant to get a firsthand look at the crisis a day after the natural disasters occurred.