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2014年9月 2日 (火)

福島・吉田調書 「撤退」も命令違反もなかった

The Yomiuri Shimbun
No ‘full retreat,’ no disobedience in 2011 nuclear crisis response
福島・吉田調書 「撤退」も命令違反もなかった

The so-called “Yoshida file” has been brought to light in its entirety.

The document is a collection of statements by Masao Yoshida, former manager of Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, that give his account of the facility’s crisis in March 2011. It was produced as a record based on a series of interviews he gave to a government committee tasked with investigating the disaster before his death.

Most of the facts revealed by Yoshida in the interview transcript were included in a report released by the investigative panel. Still, the Yoshida file is highly valuable in that his account attests to the great difficulties experienced by workers struggling to contain the nuclear crisis while vividly recounting his feelings after the disaster erupted in the wake of the catastrophic 2011 earthquake.

The onslaught of the tsunami generated by the Great East Japan Earthquake resulted in a power outage at the nuclear facility, meaning the loss of electricity needed to cool its reactors. Water had to be poured onto the reactors, which also had to be vented.

As the situation was growing increasingly serious, Yoshida was issued a rapid series of instructions from then Prime Minister Naoto Kan and other top government officials as well as TEPCO’s head office in Tokyo. He was pressed to pour water onto the reactors and implement other measures to halt the escalation of the crisis.

Yoshida’s frustration and anger toward them is evident in the document, which quotes him as saying, “I still resent them for offering no effective support.”

His account states that Kan and other figures intervened despite their lack of accurate information about the disaster. This resulted in delays in the work to defuse the crisis and undermined the morale of the personnel. A grim lesson must be learned from this.

Setting facts straight

The document also says Yoshida reacted angrily to Kan’s assertion that the prime minister greatly hindered TEPCO from “fully retreating” from the scene of the crisis. “I even want to say, ‘Who was talking about retreat?’” he is quoted as saying in the document. According to the records, Yoshida also said, “No worker assigned to the scene tried to run away.”

In its May 20 morning edition, The Asahi Shimbun said it had obtained a copy of the transcript, reporting that the workers had retreated to the Fukushima No. 2 nuclear power plant in violation of an order issued by Yoshida.

However, the transcript indicates that Yoshida never perceived his subordinates’ evacuation to the latter plant as disobedience of his orders.

He told the investigation panel that while his instructions were being conveyed to his subordinates, his remark, “I didn’t say, ‘Go to 2F,’” was interpreted differently from what he had meant. 2F refers to the Fukushima No. 2 power plant.

The record says Yoshida praised his subordinates’ decision to evacuate, quoting him as calling it “even more reasonable” for them to take refuge at the latter facility, though personnel needed to halt the crisis were excluded from those evacuees. The crippled plant was in a dangerous state due to high radiation levels.

The circumstances surrounding the workers’ evacuation were also detailed in the investigation committee’s report. The Asahi’s report in question is confusing.

Before his death, Yoshida had asked that the document not be publicly released. He believed the record could be misinterpreted by readers unless it was put into a proper context. However, his account has begun to take on a life of its own, partly due to the Asahi article.

The government reportedly intends to make the transcript available to the public, in the belief that the widely accepted perception of his account runs counter to the wishes of the late Yoshida.

The workers who fought the crisis have also been praised overseas. But a mistaken notion about Yoshida’s testimony has been spreading, as illustrated by an article in a leading U.S. newspaper based on the Asahi story. The U.S. report read: “[H]undreds of panicked employees abandoned the damaged plant despite being ordered to remain on hand.”

The transcript quotes Yoshida as saying, “I was truly moved” by workers’ desperate efforts to defuse the crisis despite enormous danger. The government has good reason to publicize the document to defend their honor.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Aug. 31, 2014)Speech


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