Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Just In: Masao Yoshida, #Fukushima I Nuke Plant Manager at the Time of Accident, Died

Mainichi Shinbun (7/9/2013):


Masao Yoshida (age 58), who was the plant manager at Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant, died in the morning of July 9. Sources at TEPCO revealed the news to Mainichi. While he was the plant manager in March 2011, the Great East Japan Earthquake and the nuclear accident happened. He led the accident response at the plant. He left the post in December 2011. He underwent an emergency surgery in July 2012 for cerebral hemorrhage.

Jiji Tsushin says the cause of death was the cancer of the esophagus.

In the first and the only interview he gave was right before the emergency brain surgery. He said he saw divine beings in the workers, who would go out and do the work in a hellish situation, come back and go out again. He said he would like to spend his time speaking for the workers.

He did not get the chance. He must have had so much he wanted to say. He has now joined the divine beings. May he rest in peace.

For those of you who haven't read them, here are my posts from August 2012, on his interview on July 10, 2012, right before he fell ill.


Video Interview of Former Plant Manager of #Fukushima I Nuke Plant Masao Yoshida: "I Saw Divine Beings in Workers in Hellish Situation" (Part 1 of 2)

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.


本来ならこの講演会に自分で出てきたいと思っていたが、昨年末から病気でずっと入院していてまだ体力が回復していない。そういう中でこういうビデオレター ということで失礼する。政府などの事故調査委員会が開催されている中で、なかなか一般のマスコミの方に我々の生の声を届けるわけにはいかないと思ってい た。事故調査委員会が一段落するまでは変な形でお話しをすることはルール違反になると私は思っていた。そういう中で(今回)話を聞いていただけるというこ とは大変ありがたいと思っている。

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?

◆しゃべりだすととまらないが、基本的に私が考えていたのは第1原発をどうやって安定化させるかということに尽きる。そういう時に我々が現場を離れるとい うことは絶対にあってはならない。かといって人命は非常に尊いので、関係のない人といったらおかしいが、事故の収拾に直接関与していない人には避難してい ただく。ただやはり現場で原子炉を冷やしたり、そういう作業をしている人間は撤退できないと思っていたし、本店にも撤退ということは一言も言っていない し、私は思ってもいなかった。本店には一言も撤退と言っていないということは間違いない。事故調にもそう話をしている。あとでいぶかしく思ったが結局、本 店と官邸の間でそういう撤退騒ぎが起こっているが現場では一言も絶対そういうことは言っていない。これは間違っていない。

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?

◆覚悟というほどの覚悟があったかはよくわからないが、結局、我々が離れてしまって注水ができなくなってしまうということは、もっとひどく放射能漏れにな る。そうすると5、6号機はプラントはなんとか安定しているが、人もいなくなると結局あそこもメルト(ダウン)するというか、燃料が溶けることになる。そ のまま放っておくと、もっと放射能も出る。福島第2原発も一生懸命、プラントを安定化させたが、あそこにも人が近づけなくなるかもしれない。そうなると非 常に大惨事になる。そこまで考えれば、当然のことながら逃げられない。

そんな中で大変な放射能、放射線がある中で、現場に何回も行ってくれた同僚たちがいるが、私が何をしたというよりも彼らが一生懸命やってくれて、私はただ 見てただけの話だ。私は何もしていない。実際ああやって現場に行ってくれた同僚一人一人は、本当にありがたい。私自身が免震重要棟にずっと座っているのが 仕事で、現場に行けていない。いろいろな指示の中で本当にあとから現場に話を聞くと大変だったなと思うが、(部下は)そこに飛び込んでいってくれた。本当 に飛び込んでいってくれた連中がたくさんいる。

私が昔から読んでいる法華経の中に地面から菩薩(ぼさつ)がわいてくるというところがあるが、そんなイメージがすさまじい地獄のような状態で感じた。現場 に行って、(免震重要棟に)上がってきてヘロヘロになって寝ていない、食事も十分ではない、体力的に限界という中で、現場に行って上がってまた現場に行こ うとしている連中がたくさんいた。それを見た時にこの人たちのために何かできることを私はしなければならないと思った。そういう人たちがいたから、(第1 原発の収束について)このレベルまでもっていけたと私は思っている。

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.

(Part 2 of 2) Video Interview Transcript of Former Plant Manager of #Fukushima I Nuke Plant Masao Yoshida: "We Put the Names of Workers on the Whiteboard, As a Grave Marker"

Following the part 1 , here's the part 2 of the video transcript of Mr. Masao Yoshida, former plant manager of Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant.

Again, the occasion was a small symposium in Fukushima on August 11, 2012, and Mr. Yoshida's video interview was done in July, before he had cerebral hemorrhage.

The transcript is from Mainichi Shinbun article (8/11/2012), not from the video which only 140 or so people who attended the seminar got to watch.

Workers relied on you as their mental [emotional] support.

◆私は何もしていない。私のとりえは福島第1原発に4回、赴任したことだ。第1原発のメンバーの名前もほとんどわかっているし、協力企業さんも結構つきあ いがあり、名前で呼べるんですね。「○○さん、○○くん、大丈夫か」とか。それだけだ。それで声をかけただけだ。私は。何もできていない。みんなやってく れたということだ。いまだにそう思っている。

I didn't do anything. All I can say is that I have worked at Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant on 4 different appointments. I know almost all [TEPCO] workers at the plant, and I know many in the affiliate companies. I know their names. "Mr. so-and-so, are you alright?" That was it. I asked them. That's all I did. I couldn't do anything. Everyone else did it. That's how I still feel.

You mean you took time to communicate with them?


Yes. We know each other. We've been working together for a long time, we're colleagues [we've been in this together]. I watched these colleagues of mine go to the horrendous scene of the accident at the plant, come back, and go back out again. All I could do was to bow my head [and thank them].

Did you think you would die when Reactor 3 blew up?

◆今回一番インパクトがあったのは1号機もそうだが、3号機の爆発というのがあった。これは今まで経験した中で非常に、あとから考えれば水素爆発だった が、その時点では何が起こったかわからないという状態なので、これから、もう破滅的に何か起こってるんじゃないかと思った。爆発について。一つは自分が死 ぬということ、メンバーも含めて、免震重要棟の人間は死んでたっておかしくない状態だった。3号機なんかは特にそうだった。あれだけのがれきが飛んでき て。私は、最初は行方不明者が何人ということを聞いた時に、確か数十人レベルでまだ安否が確認できていないというのが最初の状況だった。ああこれは10人 ぐらい死んだかもしれないというふうに思った。そこから時々刻々、だれだれがという話が入ってきて、軽傷の人間は何人かいたが。それから自衛隊の方には本 当に申し訳なかった。水を補給しにきてくれた自衛隊の部隊がけがをされて、本当に申し訳ないと思っている。不幸中の幸いで人命にかかわるものではなく、こ れはある意味、仏様のあれかなという感じが私はしている。

In addition to Reactor 1 ['s explosion], Reactor 3's explosion made the strongest impact [on me]. In retrospect it was a hydrogen explosion, but at that time we didn't know what was happening. I thought something catastrophic had happened. About the explosions. I could die, and all people in the Anti-Seismic Building could die, at any moment. It was particularly so after the explosion at Reactor 3. That much debris flying all over. When I first heard that several people were missing, safety of tens of people was not confirmed yet. I thought, maybe more than 10 people just died. Then, more information started to come in, confirming the safety of people, though there were some with minor injuries. And I feel very sorry for the Self Defense Force. The SDF troop came to supply water and they were caught in the explosion and were injured. I am very sorry. One consolation is that injuries were not life-threatening, and I feel as if it was some kind of divine providence.

You instructed your people to write down the names of the members who remained in the plant on the whiteboard. What were you thinking?


I hardly remember how it was, but probably I just wanted to show what kind of people remained and fought till the bitter end. In retrospect. I don't know myself, really.


You thought it would serve as a grave marker.




Any last thoughts, comments?

◆いずれにしても今回の事象は、いろいろ国会とか政府事故調、民間事故調などで書かれているが、我々は特に政府事故調にはすべてを話をさせていただいた。 マスコミの方からいろいろ問い合わせがあるが、お話は全部すべてそちらでさせていただいているので、そこをベースに考えていただければいいと思っている。 ただやっぱりなかなか我々の肉声というのは通じない。調査委員会を通すと肉声がなかなか届かない。その部分はいろいろな形でちゃんとメッセージを発信して いかないといけないと思っている。私一人ではなくてあそこで一緒にやったいろいろな仲間の経験をちゃんと伝えたい。

This event [Mr. Yoshida uses an industry term for this accident] has been discussed and written up by the investigation commissions by the Diet, Cabinet Office, and the private foundation. We [at TEPCO] have thoroughly discussed with the Cabinet Office investigation commission in particular. There are many inquiries from the mass media, but we have said all to these commissions [TEPCO wasn't interviewed by the private commission] so I think it is enough for the media to go from there. But it is hard to have our true voice heard. Our true voice does not come across through the [reports of the] investigation commissions. For that part, I think we should spread the message in various ways. Not just my experience, but the experience of my colleagues who worked at the plant together, I would like to tell properly.


How should Fukushima I Nuke Plant and Fukushima Prefecture be, from now on?

◆そういう次元の高い話になると今すぐに答えがないが、やっぱり発電所をどうきちっと安定化させるかがベースだ。そこができていない中で、地元にお帰りい ただくわけにはいかないので、そこが最大の(課題だ)。これは事故当時も言っていたが、日本国中だけでなく世界の知恵を集めて、より発電所、第1原発をよ り安定化させることが一番求められている。いろいろなだれの責任うんぬんということもきちっとやるべきだが、やはり発電所を少しでも安定させる。それには 人も必要だし、技術もいろいろな知恵が必要だ。そこに傾注するということが重要なことだと思う。そのうえで、地元の方々に(通常の)生活に戻っていただけ るか考えることができる。いずれにしても現場を落ち着かせる、安定化させることが一番重要な責務だ。私はちょっとまだ十分な体力がないが、戻ったらそういう形で現場のために力を届けたい。

That's a high-level question, and I don't have a ready answer for that. But it comes down to how to make the plant stabilized in a proper way. We cannot have the residents [in the surrounding areas] come back home while this is not accomplished, so it is the largest (task). What's needed most, as I was also saying during the accident, is to make Fukushima I Nuke Plant more stabilized, using the knowledge and expertise not just in Japan but in the world. We should properly assign responsibility [for the accident] on people, but what's most important is to make the plant as stable as possible. We need people for that, we need technologies and new ideas. I think it is important to focus [on the stabilization of the plant]. Only then we can decide whether the local residents can return to their normal lives. In any way, the most important task is to calm down, stabilize the situation at the plant. I still don't have enough strength, but when I come back [from illness] I want to do all I can for the plant that way [i.e. making the plant more stable].

It seems it was this last paragraph that went on a "telephone game" in some foreign media:

  1. Yoshida says they need to stabilize the plant.

  2. That means the plant is not stable, as of now.

  3. Therefore, the plant is unstable, in danger.

  4. Run! It's dangerous.

All Mr. Yoshida said was the plant needs to be made more stable, in a proper way - replacing Kanaflex hoses would be one, removing the debris and clutter would be another - so that the plant's various operations can run in a smooth, predictable manner, with no accidents like small fires and water leaks, not to mention major accidents.

By the way, this "Yoshida said the plant is not stable" duly came back to Japan as a credible piece of news in English, but it quickly disappeared among more sensational headlines (like butterfly mutation due to Fukushima radiation, for one).



Anonymous said...


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Macogy said...

Mr.Yoshida, you are a true Buddhist.

Anonymous said...

Rest in peace Mr. Yoshida: all beings should praise you for the actions of you and your colleagues on that day.

Anonymous said...

Murdered by the very nuke plant that gave him life. How ironic, or Shakespearean a tragedy. The man was a hero and did not abandon his post or listen to the know nothings who said to "get out". He prevented multiple meltdowns and is a great hero. No doubt the MSM will say his death was unrelated to any radiation from Fukushima given that "radiation is safe."

Anonymous said...

Mr. Yoshida - Rest in Peace. "...a brave man takes a stand, (and) the spines of others are often stiffened." Mr. Yoshida set a fine example not just for Japan but for all.

- Dallas, TX

Darth 3.11 said...

Hero. Next NHK Sunday year-long show? Sincerely, I am sad he is gone and truly appreciate his clear-headed and extremely brave actions. Otherwise, without his actions, and those brave crew under him, perhaps I would be dead here in Tokyo, of a pretty horrible demise, or at the very least forced into a panicky flight (with cat) from Tokyo.

Makes the rest of the Japanese reactions and actions seem pretty pale by comparison.

Anonymous said...

Tepco doesn't recognize his health problems to be professional ( caused by radiation ).
And it seems his exposure recording is strongly understated (plus the trackers ignoring some specific kind of rays).
A physicist specialized in nuclear matters said there was a "vicious circle" with the trackers, as the more you are irradiated, the higher your retirement is.
Tepco seems willing to put that back in order, too.

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