(UPDATE: Part 2 of the video interview transcript is here.)
Mainichi Shinbun has the slightly-paraphrased but full transcript of the video interview with Masao Yoshida, former Plant Manager of Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant. Since late July he has been hospitalized for cerebral hemorrhage, but the video interview, which was conducted on July 10, was shown at a small symposium in Fukushima on August 11, 2012.
I hope for the full recovery for Mr. Yoshida, so that he can continue to speak for the workers who have worked and who still work at the plant, trying to make the plant as stable as possible.
Mainichi's article reporting on the symposium has a screen capture of the video, which seems to be subtitled in English by the symposium organizer (a bookstore). But I don't have access to the video, so the following is my translation from the Mainichi transcript. It is most likely different from the official translation by the symposium organizer, and the mistakes contained in the translation below would be my mistakes, not the organizer's.
Here's Part 1 of the translation. The sentences are broken into paragraphs for easier reading. There are no paragraphs in the original Japanese text.
From Mainichi Shinbun (8/11/2012):
Tell us about what it was like at Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant.
The last year's earthquake and tsunami, and the accident of our nuclear power plant, have caused a great deal of hardship to the local residents in Fukushima Prefecture. I would like to take this opportunity to apologize deeply. The situation is likely to continue for a while, but we are doing our best to restore the plant. Please understand.
I wanted to come to this symposium in person, but I've been hospitalized since the end of last year and my strength hasn't been restored. So please excuse me for talking to you through video like this. As long as the accident investigation commissions were conducting their investigations, I didn't think I should speak to the mass media about the real situation at the plant. I thought it would be a violation of the rules to speak out, until the accident investigation commissions concluded their investigation. So, I welcome (this opportunity) in which you kindly allow me to speak.
Some say you [or TEPCO] contemplated full withdrawal from the plant. Is that true?
I could go on forever on the topic, but basically all I was thinking at that time was how to stabilize the plant. In such a situation, leaving the scene of the accident should never happen. However, the life is extremely precious, and people who were not involved, people who were not directly involved in the accident needed to be evacuated. Those people who were engaged in cooling the reactors, I didn't think they could evacuate. I have never said a word about withdrawal to the TEPCO headquarters, and it didn't enter my mind at all. I am 100 percent sure that I never said a word about withdrawal, and that's what I told the accident investigation commission [of the Cabinet Office] so. I was puzzled later [about the issue], but the fuss over "withdrawal" happened between the TEPCO Headquarters and the Prime Minister's Office, but we at the plant never said a word about that [withdrawal]. I'm quite positive on that.
Were you prepared to die?
I don't know if I was prepared, but in the end, if we were to leave and water injection stopped, more radiation would leak. Then, Reactors 5 and 6, which were somehow stable, would melt, I mean the fuel would melt, once there was no one at the plant. If the plant was left all by itself, more radiation would leak. We managed to stabilize Fukushima II (Daini) Power plant, but we might not be able to be there [if Fukushima I was abandoned and more radiation leaked]. That would be a catastrophe. If you think that way, there is no way we could just run away.
In that situation, in the tremendous amount of radioactivity, my colleagues went to the scenes of the accident a number of times. It was them who did all they could, and all I did was to watch them do it. I didn't do anything. I really appreciate and thank every single one of my colleagues who went to the scenes of the accident. My job was to stay put in the Anti-Seismic Building, and I couldn't go to the accident scenes. I gave orders, and when I heard from the workers later, I knew it was a serious [terrible] situation. But [people who worked under me] went there without hesitation. There were many of them, who literally jumped into the scenes of the accident, trying to contain it.
In a Buddhism text that I've been reading for a long time, there is a mention of divine figures issuing from the ground. That was what I felt was happening in the hellish situation at the plant. Workers would go to the scenes of the accident, then come back upstairs (at the Anti-Seismic Building), they were dead tired, without sleep, with not enough food, reaching the limit of their physical strength. Then they would go out again, and come back, and go out again. There were many workers like them. When I saw these workers, I knew I had to do whatever I could for them. It's my belief that we have been able to restore the plant to the current level [of relative stability], because of these workers.
The precise word Mr. Yoshida uses for "divine figure" is "Bodhisattva" - one who vows to save all beings before becoming a buddha.
It was probably the first time that anyone from TEPCO spoke words of praise and appreciation for the workers at the plant in a personal way like Mr. Yoshida did. According to the local Fukushima newspapers, Yoshida's words were much appreciated by the families whose members worked or still works at the plant.