Kan puts his foot down
Awoken from his shut-eye, Prime Minister Kan stepped into his office at 3 a.m. on March 15. Awaiting him there were industry minister Kaieda, Chief Cabinet Secretary Edano, Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Fukuyama and two special advisers to the prime minister, Hosono and Terada.
According to Fukuyama, Kan did not hide his disbelief and disdain when he was informed that TEPCO wished to withdraw from the Fukushima No. 1 plant. "Don't they know what they're talking about?" he snapped. "Evacuation is out of the question."
At 3:20 p.m., everyone moved to the parlor next door. On one wall hung a work of calligraphy bearing the word "senzei." It means a cicada's cast-off shell, but it also implies a state of freedom from worldly cares and ambitions.
The group was soon joined by deputy chief Cabinet secretaries Hirohisa Fujii, 79, and Kinya Takino, 64; and Ryu Matsumoto, 60, minister in charge of disaster management, as well as NISA Director-General Nobuaki Terasaka, 58, Yasui, also of the NISA; Madarame, chief of the Nuclear Safety Commission, and his deputy, Yutaka Kukita.
The crisis at the No. 2 reactor had begun the day before. Attempts were being made to reduce the reactor pressure, but nothing was working. The main problem was the pipeline valve for relieving the pressure building up inside the reactor. Unless the valve could be opened, the pressure buildup would eventually cause the reactor to blow. And the pressure was building up every second.
The meeting began with Yasui explaining the situation, followed by Edano repeating TEPCO's wish to evacuate the plant since there was nothing more that could be done to alleviate the crisis.
But again, Kan put his foot down immediately. "Evacuation is not an option," he repeated.
When everyone concurred, it was agreed that confronting TEPCO directly would be the only way to stop it from pulling out of the Fukushima No. 1 plant.
The group decided to send for TEPCO President Shimizu.
While waiting for Shimizu's arrival, Kan asked only the politicians to come to his office.
"If we don't contain this crisis and TEPCO ends up evacuating the plant, the whole of eastern Japan is going to be ruined," Kan said. "We just can't run away from this. If we do, we deserve a foreign invasion."
Then, fixing his gaze on each man, Kan said, "I'm going to TEPCO headquarters. Are you coming with me?" "You?" "You?"