Fukuyama throws a tantrum
At 3:12 a.m. on March 12, Chief Cabinet Secretary Edano held a news conference at the prime minister's office on venting the No. 1 reactor to prevent the reactor from blowing up. It was an attempt Japan had never experienced before.
He began, "We have been informed by TEPCO that it is necessary to relieve pressure in the No. 1 reactor containment vessel in order to secure its structural soundness. Taking this step is unavoidable to secure safety. ..."
Six minutes earlier, another news conference of the same nature had started at the industry ministry with Kaieda and TEPCO Managing Director Komori.
Asked by a reporter if the venting was imminent, Komori replied in the affirmative, "We are all set to go. It could start even as we speak."
It was the shared belief of Prime Minister Kan and his nuclear emergency response team that venting the reactor should at least avert an explosion and that the reactor cooling system would be back in operation once vehicle-mounted generators were in place at the Fukushima No. 1 plant.
Having seen the arrangements to deploy vehicle-mounted generators completed, Kan instructed that plans should be made for his inspection tour of the crippled nuclear plant. Terada, special adviser to the prime minister, wore sandals on his bare feet as he drew up Kan's itinerary.
At 3:59 a.m., a 6.7-magnitude earthquake struck. The epicenter was in northern Nagano Prefecture. Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Fukuyama hurried from the "mezzanine room" to the crisis management center in the basement.
In a voice tinged with urgency, he asked a senior official of the Japan Meteorological Agency, "Is this an aftershock of the Tohoku quake, or is this something entirely different?" His voice boomed throughout the crisis management center on the public-address system.
Fukuyama dropped what he was doing on the nuclear crisis and started gathering information on the Nagano temblor. The crisis management center was thrown into confusion.
When it was confirmed that there were no fatalities, Fukuyama got back to dealing with the nuclear crisis. Returning to the mezzanine room, he found Hiraoka of the NISA, Madarame of the Nuclear Safety Commission, and TEPCO fellow Takekuro.
"Has the venting begun?" Fukuyama asked.
The answer was in the negative.
Fukuyama shouted in anger, "Why on earth not? It was you who said venting should start around 3! The chief Cabinet secretary has already told the reporters (that it would start around 3). Now he's lied to the nation, that's what! Isn't the reactor going to blow if it's not vented? Is it all right (if the venting is delayed)?"
Prime Minister Kan had yet to be informed of this situation.