Yoshida feared nuclear ‘annihilation’ of eastern Japan, testimony shows
THE ASAHI SHIMBUN September 12 2014.
Plant manager Masao Yoshida envisioned catastrophe for eastern Japan in the days following the outbreak of the Fukushima nuclear disaster, according to his testimony, one of 19 released by the government on Sept. 11.
The testimonies of 19 of the people interviewed by the Investigation Committee on the Accident at the Fukushima Nuclear Power Stations of Tokyo Electric Power Co. shed light on the early days of the crisis at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant and the front-line response.
They include statements from then Prime Minister Naoto Kan and Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano when the Democratic Party of Japan-led administration was in power.
Explaining why the government decided to disclose the documents, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said at a news conference: “Several newspapers have run stories in a piecemeal fashion that cover only part of the hearings of former plant manager Yoshida. As a result, Yoshida’s fear that words in his testimony would be misused out of convenience was warranted.”
In his testimony, Yoshida described the condition of the No. 2 reactor at the Fukushima plant between the evening of March 14, 2011, and the next morning: “Despite the nuclear fuel being completely exposed, we’re unable to reduce pressure. Water can’t get in either.”
Yoshida recalled the severity of the situation. “If we continue to be unable to get water in, all of the nuclear fuel will melt and escape from the containment vessel, and radioactive substances from the fuel will spread to the outside,” he said.
Fearing a worst-case scenario at the time, Yoshida said, “What we envisioned was that the entire eastern part of Japan would be annihilated.”
On the morning of March 15, Yoshida instructed all non-essential personnel to evacuate the command center building. While many took refuge in the Fukushima No. 2 nuclear plant, Yoshida said, “In fact, I never told the workers to go to 2F (Fukushima No. 2 nuclear power plant).
“I thought I gave an order to temporarily evacuate to a location where radiation levels were low near the Fukushima No. 1 plant, irrespective of whether it is in the compound of the plant, and await further instructions.”
If the workers had evacuated to areas near the No. 1 plant as instructed, however, “all of them would be wearing full-face masks. They would have died within hours of evacuating,” Yoshida pointed out.
He praised the response of workers who took refuge in the No. 2 plant, saying, “Upon sufficient consideration, I realized it was much more correct to go to 2F.”
THE ASAHI SHIMBUN