Kan loses it, and so does Kaieda
At 7:12 a.m. on March 12, the SDF helicopter carrying Prime Minister Kan and his entourage of 12 arrived at the Fukushima No. 1 plant.
Kan, clad in disaster-response duds and sneakers, was greeted by TEPCO Executive Vice President Sakae Muto, 61, and Motohisa Ikeda, 71, senior vice minister of the ministry of trade and industry who headed the off-site emergency response center. They all boarded a minibus.
Kan sat in a window seat behind the driver. When Muto sat next to him, Kan lashed out at him, "Why haven't you started venting (the No. 1 reactor)? Get going with it! Just do it!"
Kan's voice was so loud and angry that Terata, special adviser to the prime minister, could not help flinching from four rows behind.
Muto said something, but Terata could not catch it. "It was just an incoherent mumble," he recalled. Kan, too, would describe it as such.
Tadashi Tsumura, a Kyodo News reporter representing the Kantei Kisha Club (press club of the prime minister's office), was sitting in the back of the minibus. Terata turned to him with a concerned look and said, "I hope you won't write about the prime minister losing it, will you?"
Kan made no attempt to control his anger.
He recalled, "The fate of our nation hinged on the venting, but TEPCO was being hopelessly wishy-washy. How could I not scream and shout in frustration?"
That was one of the rare episodes of Kan's outbursts since March 11, but it stuck and amplified his image as "the ranting and raving prime minister."
But Kan was not the only one who was losing it. Industry minister Kaieda, who remained in the mezzanine room of the prime minister's office, was also ranting and raving.
He screamed in fury at TEPCO fellow Takekuro, "Why can't you vent the reactor? I'm ordering you to do it! It's an order, do you hear?!"
At 6:50 a.m., while Kan was still in the air, Kaieda invoked the nuclear reactor regulation law and issued an order to vent the No. 1 and No. 2 reactors. Nobody at the prime minister's office was getting any satisfactory explanation of why the venting had not started as scheduled. The fear of an explosion was growing increasingly real.
When the minibus carrying Kan and his party arrived at the plant's earthquake-proof wing where the on-site response headquarters was located, they were made to join a line of workers measuring radiation.
The line hardly moved, and Kan sensed something was not right. "We don't have any time for this!" he yelled, and left the line. He headed straight for the conference room on the second floor.
The moment he stepped into the building, he gasped.