Following months of leaks, criticism and controversy, the government said Monday it will release most of the transcribed testimony of the late Masao Yoshida, who dealt with the 2011 triple meltdown crisis as head of the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant.
The interview records will be made available to media outlets next month, with some parts redacted to protect third parties mentioned in the interviews and information related to national security, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told a news conference.
“The situation is changing and there will be no problems in disclosing these records,” Suga told a regularly scheduled news conference at the prime minister’s office.
Asked if the government had obtained the consent of Yoshida’s family, Suga declined to comment, saying only that the administration “has made the decision by itself.”
Yoshida, who died of esophageal cancer on July 9 of last year, asked the government not to publish the interview transcripts. He said he was concerned that what he discussed during the interviews, which were conducted from July to November 2011, might include factual errors. He was also worried that the public might take everything said in the interviews as confirmed fact.
Facts about the crisis at the Tokyo Electric Power Co. plant should be gleaned from interviews with other people and other materials, Yoshida argued in a written request submitted to the government in May 2012.
Officials had refused to publish the transcripts despite requests from media outlets, including The Japan Times.
But Suga said Monday that Yoshida’s concerns “have already become a reality” with the publication by the Asahi Shimbun and Sankei Shimbun of what they say are the transcripts. At this point Yoshida’s original intention would be better served through disclosure, Suga said.
The Asahi claimed in May it had obtained the roughly 400 pages of testimony covering 28 hours of interviews. The paper reported that most plant workers temporarily fled to the nearby Fukushima No. 2 power plant despite Yoshida’s order to remain at the No. 1 plant amid the meltdown crisis in March 2011.
The Asahi’s report, which was published in Japanese and English, caught the attention of media outlets overseas because it went against the image of the plant workers, whom they had praised as the brave “Fukushima 50.”
But the Sankei, which said it had later obtained the same transcript of the interviews, caused a stir earlier this month by claiming that the Asahi’s report was wrong. Yoshida discussed the apparent confusion in the way his order was conveyed to workers at the crippled plant, but he didn’t believe they had acted against his instructions, according to the Sankei.
According to the Asahi, Yoshida said he did not order workers to evacuate to the No. 2 plant, but many went there anyway.
“Actually, I never told them to go to 2F,” Yoshida was quoted as saying by the Asahi, referring to the still-functioning Fukushima No. 2.
But according to the Asahi, Yoshida later concluded that the decision of those workers was right, which may have been why the Sankei claimed that Yoshida didn’t believe the workers acted against his orders. “I came to believe that going to 2F was by far the right thing to do if only you gave more thought to it,” Yoshida said, according to the Asahi.
Meanwhile, the Sankei also reported that Yoshida harshly criticized then-Prime Minister Naoto Kan, who claimed that top Tepco executives were considering withdrawing all of the plant workers, which would have left it deserted at a critical stage in the meltdown crisis.
Yoshida argued that at least workers at the plant did not run away and that Kan should not speak only from his own viewpoint, according to the Sankei.
Victims of the nuclear disaster have sued the government to secure full disclosure of the Yoshida transcripts.
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