No. 1 plant’s ex-chief lauds ‘saints in hell’ —Kyodo

The ex-chief of the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant praises his subordinates who strove to contain the crisis in a video that will be aired at an upcoming event in the city of Fukushima.

Masao Yoshida, 57, describes the workers as “Buddhist saints in hell” and says he thought he could have died in the crisis and the “workers cooling the reactors at the plant could not leave the site.”

The 30-minute video will be shown with English subtitles at a symposium Aug. 11.

It is the first time Yoshida has detailed in public how he felt during the critical period following the March 11, 2011, start of the catastrophe.

Yoshida was relieved of his post in December to undergo treatment for esophageal cancer.

The video was recorded July 10 in a Tokyo hotel specifically for the symposium, according to the Nagano Prefecture publisher organizing the event.

At the start of the video, Yoshida apologizes to the people of Fukushima for “causing great trouble.”

He goes on to say that right after a hydrogen explosion ripped through one of the reactor buildings, workers “rushed to” the site.

He says he told subordinates to write their names on a whiteboard to let people know who “remained at the site until the last minute to fight” the disaster.

Tokyo Electric Power Co. has been criticized for allegedly proposing to the government early in the crisis that all workers at the plant be withdrawn due to safety concerns, but Yoshida denies making such a suggestion.

“Basically, I was thinking how to stabilize the power plant. I thought no one engaged in cooling the reactors could leave,” he says. “I never said a word about withdrawal to the head office.”

Yoshida says debris from an explosion in the reactor 3 building three days into the crisis flew into the building housing the control room where he was in command, and that he feared that an even worse catastrophe was in the offing.

Thursday, July 26, 2012