It seems that the employees who were responsible for providing support in times of emergencies at the Fukushima nuclear power plant were nowhere to be found at the most critical time they were needed. In a document recording the prosecutors’ questioning of Masao Yoshida, manager of the power plant operated by Tokyo Electric Power Co (TEPCO), it was discovered that almost all of the 720 employees including managers of the utility company left the site when the alarm sounded, which was against Yoshida’s orders.
Yoshida, who has been questioned 13 times on separate occasions, detailed the events of the day when the three nuclear reactor had a meltdown during the 2011 earthquake and tsunami. According to his account, he was at the emergency command center when he received two reports saying that there was an explosion heard at the No. 2 reactor while the second one informed him of the pressure falling to zero at the suppression chamber of the reactor. As those two reports indicated a crisis at the plant, he advised workers to temporarily evacuate to areas where there are low radiation levels and wait for his advise when they could come back to their posts. But some employees directed bus drivers outside the command center to proceed to the No. 2 nuclear power plant, which was 10 kilometers away. Other employees followed in their car. Yoshida was recorded to have said, “In fact, I never told the workers to go (to the No. 2 plant). I thought I gave an order to temporarily evacuate to a location where radiation levels were low near the Fukushima No. 1 plant and await further instructions.” Among those 650 who left were group managers and Yoshida expressed surprise that they did not stay.
His account has brought to light concerns on whether the employees could be counted on during critical situations. It also casted doubt on TEPCO’s transparency on what truly happened at the site as the utility company has never blamed the workers in the plant for what happened, including managers who apparently ran for cover at the No. 2 plant.
[via The Asahi Shimbun]