Disregard Tepco order, boss told plant workers

Kyodo

The head of the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, who will be relieved of his post effective Thursday for medical treatment, told workers to disregard Tepco’s order to stop injecting seawater into a reactor soon after the crisis erupted in March, according to government and other sources.

Masao Yoshida, who has drawn media attention for continuing the seawater injection despite Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s decision to suspend the measure, told workers not to obey his ensuing instruction before going on to order them to stop injecting the water, government and Tepco sources said.

While some people have criticized Yoshida’s unilateral action, others have said he kept the crisis from growing even worse as workers scrambled to try to get the plant back under control.

The March 11 natural disaster caused the plant’s No. 1 reactor to lose power and thus its cooling functions. With the supply of fresh water to cool the reactor running out, workers began injecting seawater shortly after 7 p.m. March 12.

Tepco’s head office instructed Yoshida to stop the seawater injection after an official of the utility dispatched to then Prime Minister Naoto Kan’s office reported to his superiors that there was “a feeling that seawater injection could not be implemented without the prime minister’s decision.”

Yoshida told his workers, “I will order you to stop the water injection . . . but do not listen to it,” before instructing them to stop the seawater injection, according to the sources.

The workers continued injecting seawater into the reactor, they said.

Based on a report from Yoshida, Tepco initially announced the seawater injection had been suspended from 7:25 p.m. to 7:55 p.m. Two months later, he revealed that the injection had not been suspended and he was reprimanded by Tepco.

Tepco said Monday that Yoshida has been hospitalized and will be relieved of his post, while declining to provide details of his illness and his accumulated radiation exposure, citing privacy, only saying that doctors have not indicated a link to radiation.

Yoshida became the plant’s chief in June 2010.