Japan’s government has released transcripts of interviews about the accident at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant.
The government on Thursday disclosed interviews with 19 of 772 government and Tokyo Electric Power Company officials. A government-appointed panel carried out the interviews between 2011 and 2012.
The released interviews include those of former plant manager Masao Yoshida and former prime minister Naoto Kan, who were both in their posts at the time of the 2011 accident.
The government had not disclosed the testimony. But it reversed its initial policy after some media outlets published what they say are transcripts of Yoshida’s testimony.
Asked about TEPCO’s possible removal of all staff members from the plant at the time of the accident, Yoshida said he spoke over the telephone with Goshi Hosono, an advisor to Kan at that time.
Yoshida said he told Hosono he believed they would need to evacuate those who were not directly involved and that they were preparing to do so.
Hosono said he’d never before worked with such a strong sense of tension, and that he had no memory of what he said then.
Then-chief cabinet secretary Yukio Edano recalled conversations with then-TEPCO president Masataka Shimuzu.
Edano said he had heard from someone that utility officials were talking about withdrawal from the plant. Edano said he then received a telephone call from Shimizu, who said something similar.
Edano said he didn’t remember the exact words Shimizu used, but he was sure the president was talking about a full-scale withdrawal. Edano said other government officials received separate phone calls and that he couldn’t have misunderstood the nature of the conversation.
Then-prime minister Naoto Kan spoke about his time at the headquarters of the utility after the accident.
Kan said he told TEPCO officials that they were the party in charge and that he urged them to work as if their lives depended on it.
Kan said he told them that there was no way to escape or withdraw. He said he urged the chairman and president to get prepared to have employees over 60 years old go to the accident site.
Kan reportedly said he himself was resolved and that TEPCO would collapse if they decided on withdrawal.
Then-industry minister Banri Kaieda spoke about Shimizu’s appearance at the prime minister’s office.
Kaieda said cabinet ministers were frustrated with the utility and their sense of distrust was at a peak. He said the ministers felt pressed to summon the president to tell him what to do.
Former plant chief Yoshida said in testimony that he wondered what the ministers were making a fuss about. Yoshida said he wanted to make sure that people were not leaving and that he by no means had told his employees to get away.
The government plans to release testimony by other interviewees subject to their consent by the end of the year.