Kaieda to Shimizu: 'Please hold down the fort'
TEPCO President Shimizu desperately tried to contact Kaieda on two occasions on March 14.
One was during two hours from 7 p.m., when the No. 2 reactor was overheating after the fuel rods become fully exposed. TEPCO communicated this alarming development to the industry ministry, among others.
The other was toward midnight after 10:50 p.m., when the pressure inside the No. 2 reactor containment vessel exceeded the designed limit. By around midnight, TEPCO's last-ditch effort to vent the pressure had failed.
On the two occasions, Shimizu tried frantically to speak to industry minister Kaieda. Clutching his cellphone, he repeatedly called Kaieda's secretary, at times punching the redial button every few seconds.
According to Kaieda, Shimizu said to him when they finally spoke on the phone, "I want to evacuate the staff at the Fukushima No. 1 plant to the No. 2 plant. Would you help us in any way?" But Kaieda would not hear of it. "Please hold down the fort," he told Shimizu.
This conversation presumably took place around 8 p.m., but some people disagree.
Special adviser Terada recalled going into Chief Cabinet Secretary Edano's office a few minutes after 8 to find him talking with Kaieda. Then Kaieda's secretary came in and said, "A phone call from TEPCO, sir." Kaieda told the secretary, "I don't need to take the call. The matter has been settled. I've already told them my answer is 'No.' "
When Terada asked Kaieda what this was about, Kaieda replied, "TEPCO said they wanted to pull out of the Fukushima No. 1 plant."
"But sir, that's a serious matter," a surprised Terada told him. "Shouldn't you take the call and make sure there are no misunderstandings?"
Kaieda obliged and took the call. It was from Shimizu. Kaieda told him, "Please hold down the fort."
According to Edano, Shimizu called him, too, around midnight, saying he wanted to evacuate his staff from the Fukushima No. 1 plant. Edano's reply was terse: "That's not something I can readily say 'Yes' to."
Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Fukuyama claimed that TEPCO had also called special adviser Hosono, but Hosono had refused to take the call.
Given the frequency of the calls Shimizu made, he was obviously desperate.