Mr. Yoshida, who stayed at the Fukushima plant with 68 employees as it seemed to teeter on the brink of catastrophe after being crippled by a huge earthquake and tsunami, came to be viewed in Japan as a hero for preventing the disaster from growing even worse. His 400-page account of the accident, which had been kept secret by the government, is now scheduled to be made public as early as this month, following pressure from shareholders of the plant’s operator, the Tokyo Electric Power Company, and from other news agencies after the Asahi scoop.
Like the Asahi report, the accounts published over the last week, which could not be independently verified, appeared to come from copies of Mr. Yoshida’s testimony that were leaked to Japanese news media.
While the new reports carry much of the same information as the earlier Asahi account, they differ on the key point of whether the plant’s workers who fled on March 15 were consciously violating Mr. Yoshida’s order for them to stay where they were. The Asahi report quoted Mr. Yoshida as saying he had never given the order to withdraw, indicating that the evacuation went against his instructions.
However, additional excerpts from Mr. Yoshida’s testimony cited in the new reports suggest a communication failure, not a willful violation of orders by the employees.
“It was like the telephone game,” in which a message gets distorted as it is whispered from person to person, Mr. Yoshida is quoted as saying in the new reports. “I said, ‘If we go, should it be to 2F?’ while the people who heard me gave the instruction to the drivers to go to Fukushima Daini.”
Mr. Yoshida was referring to the drivers of buses that were being brought to the damaged plant for a possible evacuation. Those buses helped carry the fleeing workers to the unharmed Fukushima Daini nuclear plant, also known as 2F, despite the fact that the evacuation order was never given.
The new excerpts also reveal that Mr. Yoshida feared that the accident could grow into a broader disaster that might have threatened all of eastern Japan, a region that is usually taken as including Tokyo, about 150 miles south of the destroyed plant.
“Our image was a catastrophe for eastern Japan,” Mr. Yoshida said in the testimony, according to Kyodo. “I thought we were really dead.”
While the accident did spew radioactive fallout over a wide swath of northeastern Japan, it did not become severe enough to cause the worst-case scenario: an evacuation of the neighboring Daini plant, which could have caused that plant’s reactors to spin out of control as well.
Largely because of the efforts of Mr. Yoshida, who died last year of throat cancer at 58, the destroyed Daichi plant’s three melted-down reactors have been stabilized by temporary cooling systems.
However, the plant’s operator, which is also known as Tepco, is still struggling to cut off a huge influx of groundwater into the damaged reactor buildings. That must be stopped before Tepco can begin an effort to decommission the reactors, which could take 30 years and cost more than $10 billion.
Source: New York Times