Ex-Fukushima nuclear plant chief denies ‘pullout’ in video

August 12, 2012

THE ASAHI SHIMBUN

The former chief of Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant said he had never dreamed of abandoning the crippled plant during the crisis triggered by the Great East Japan Earthquake of March 11, 2011.

In a 30-minute video shown at a symposium in Fukushima on Aug. 11, Masao Yoshida, 57, said, “The only thing (on my mind after the accident broke out) was how to stabilize the power station.

“I did not suggest to (executives at) the head office withdrawing from the plant, nor did I even think about it.”

Yoshida, who left his post in December for esophagus cancer treatment, was interviewed by Hideki Yabuhara, 49, a personnel training consultant, at a Tokyo hotel on July 10. The symposium was organized by a publishing company.

Former Prime Minister Naoto Kan and other politicians have said they believed that TEPCO officials were considering withdrawing all workers from the plant during the crisis.

A recent report issued by a Diet-commissioned panel investigating the accident criticized Masataka Shimizu, TEPCO president at the time, for miscommunications with the prime minister's office and making it believe TEPCO was planning to withdraw all workers from the plant.

In a seperate report, the investigation panel set up by the government concluded that Yoshida and other TEPCO employees at the Fukushima No. 1 plant intended to leave the minimum number of employees on the grounds necessary to control the nuclear reactors.

Condensed videos of teleconferences recently released by TEPCO taken during the emergency on March 14 show Shimizu and other TEPCO officials besides Yoshida discussing an evacuation option, but no confirmation can be made of the utility's true intentions.

The videos did show Yoshida on that date frustrated at one point with questioning and advice from TEPCO officials and asked them to let him have his own way to vent the core in the No. 2 reactor to reduce mounting pressure.

In the video shown at the symposium, Yoshida said many of his subordinates and other workers headed to accident sites although they had been pushed to their physical limits.

He thanked them for their desperate efforts to bring the crisis under control, likening them to “bodhisattvas,” or Buddhist saints.

At the beginning of the video, Yoshida said, “I deeply apologize for causing inconvenience to people in Fukushima Prefecture. (TEPCO) is making an all-out effort for recovery.”

Yoshida added, “I have not regained my strength, but I want to do what I can to help (people working at) the plant.”

THE ASAHI SHIMBUN
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Masao Yoshida, former chief of the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, in the video shown on Aug. 11 (Masakazu Honda)

Masao Yoshida, former chief of the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, in the video shown on Aug. 11 (Masakazu Honda)

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  • Masao Yoshida, former chief of the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, in the video shown on Aug. 11 (Masakazu Honda)

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