TEPCO official goes incommunicado
With the crisis continuing at the No. 2 reactor of the Fukushima No. 1 plant, Prime Minister Kan was in his office in the early hours of March 15, waiting for TEPCO President Shimizu, whom he had summoned, to arrive.
"The thought of the reactor blowing filled me with dread," Kan later recalled. "Should that happen, the consequences would be truly detrimental to the whole nation. I even thought about my mother's house in Mitaka (in western Tokyo), wondering if it'll ever be habitable again."
There were four TEPCO staffers stationed at the prime minister's office. The most senior of the group was Ichiro Takekuro, 65, a former TEPCO executive vice president in charge of nuclear operations who went by the honorary title of "fellow," which is conferred upon distinguished engineers.
Since March 11, Takekuro had been staying in the parlor on the fourth floor of the prime minister's office, instead of on the fifth floor, where Kan's office is located.
He represented TEPCO in the government's disaster response plans, attending crucial meetings and offering technical advice.
But he was nowhere to be found on early March 15, when the prime minister's office was angry over the issue of evacuating TEPCO workers from the Fukushima No. 1 plant.
Takekuro was taking a nap at a nearby hotel at that time.
On March 14, he had dealt with the No. 2 reactor crisis, succeeding around 7 p.m. in lowering the reactor pressure slightly. This enabled fire trucks to inject seawater into the reactor from around 7:45 p.m to cool the reactor core. Relieved, he checked into a hotel near the prime minister's office just after midnight to shower and take a nap. He kept his cellphone by his pillow, but the phone never rang, and he slept undisturbed until morning.
The pressure inside the containment vessel later began to rise dangerously again while he slept, but nobody at TEPCO's head office informed Takekuro of this development.
In the meantime, the car carrying Shimizu was on its way to the prime minister's office. While waiting for him, Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Fukuyama and Terada, special adviser to the prime minister, excused themselves from Kan's office.
Stepping out, Fukuyama whispered to Terada, "It'll be really, really bad if Shimizu says (to the prime minister's face) that he wants to evacuate his people from the Fukushima No. 1 plant."
Terada suggested, "Perhaps we should alert Shimizu to the prime minister's intention before he goes into the office?"
Shimizu was accompanied by two senior TEPCO executives, one in charge of Diet affairs and the other in charge of public relations. Shimizu mumbled to them in the car, "I'm so sorry. The prime minister is going to give us a big dressing-down again. I'm so sorry to put you two through it."