The government on Tuesday refused to comment on a media report that Masao Yoshida, the now-deceased chief of the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant at the time of the meltdowns, was quoted as saying most of the plant's workers evacuated in spite of his order to remain.

The daily Asahi Shimbun, which claims to have obtained a copy of an interview with Yoshida carried out by the government panel investigating the Fukushima crisis, started running excerpts of the interview Tuesday. No record of the exchange has been officially disclosed.

Yoshida allegedly told the panel that about 90 percent of the plant's 720 workers left the premises during the meltdown crisis despite having been ordered by him to stay.