Aftermath in Fukushima No. 1 was like hell, says nuclear plant chief

JIJI

The immediate aftermath of the nuclear disaster at Fukushima No. 1 in March 2011 was hellish, the former chief of the stricken Tokyo Electric Power Co. plant said in a recent interview.

“It was like hell,” Masao Yoshida said in an interview screened at a symposium in the city of Fukushima on Saturday.

The interview, conducted in Tokyo on July 10 was filmed by a publishing firm from Nagano Prefecture.

Speaking about the hydrogen explosions that ripped through some of the reactor buildings soon after the crisis began, Yoshida said he felt that “something catastrophic might be happening.”

“Myself and all of the staff at the Seismic-Isolated Building might have died,” he said. The building served as a base for the containment team.

As for charges that Tepco proposed evacuating all staff from the plant in the midst of the crisis, Yoshida said: “We should never leave the plant. I didn’t mention withdrawal even once in my talks with officials from head office.”

Yoshida, who led the on-site containment team, thanked all of the workers for their strenuous efforts to bring the plant under control despite the high levels of radiation released by the melted reactor cores.

“The staff went to work although they had reached their physical limits due to lack of sleep and food. The plant has recovered to its current state thanks to them,” he said.

The Fukushima No. 1 crisis is the world’s worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl. After losing all electricity in the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami, three of the plant’s reactors overheated and suffered core meltdowns, tainting much of the prefecture and beyond with radiation.

Yoshida, who was recently diagnosed with cancer, said: “The most important task is to stabilize the plant further.”

Yoshida complained that the workers often cannot get their real voices heard if their testimony is collected by investigation committees.

Yoshida stepped down as Fukushima No. 1′s manager at the end of November last year after being diagnosed with esophagus cancer. Tepco said it is unlikely his cancer emerged as a result of radiation from the crisis.