The Tokyo Electric Power Co. revealed on Tuesday that former Fukushima Daiichi manager Masao Yoshida passed away due to cancer of the esophagus. Yoshida was the power plant’s manager when it suffered the meltdowns in 2011. He resigned in December of that year when he was diagnosed with advanced esophageal cancer, although doctors said that it had no connection with his radiation exposure at the time of the disaster.
Tatsujiro Suzuki, Vice-Chairman of Japan Atomic Energy Commission, shared his appreciation for Yoshida’s fortitude at the time of the Fukushima disaster, when he had to make crucial decisions for people under him. “He had to make a decision that most of the on-site workers should leave because the situation was getting worse, and he also had to have some of his staff remain to work with him. That was probably the hardest decision he ever had to make.” Few days after the disaster, Yoshida had to make the tough decision of appointing other workers to remain at the facility to keep the damage from escalating. Those who remained were called the “Fukushima Fifty,” acknowledged by the Kingdom of Spain as “Heroes of Fukushima” and were given the “Prince of Asturias Award for Concord” in September 2011.
Yoshida was also known to have defied orders from the TEPCO headquarters. The day after the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake, he led workers at the Fukushima power plant in pumping seawater into reactor 1 to cool it down. When TEPCO ordered him to halt the operation, Yoshida refused to stop. Sake Muto, who served as vice prime minister at the time of the disaster, acknowledged that the decision was appropriate. Even Physicist Michio Kaku commended that then 56-year old Masao Yoshida’s decision saved northern Japan. Yoshida was a graduate of Nuclear Engineering at the Tokyo Institute of Technology, which placed 9th in the QS Asian University Rankings in 2011. Naoto Kan, Japan’s Prime Minister at the time of the Fukushima meltdown, was also impressed with the engineer. “I bow in respect for his leadership and decision-making,” said Kan, who also graduated from Tokyo Institute of Technology.
In August last year, Yoshida underwent emergency surgery because of cerebral hemorrhaging, but doctors ruled out its connection to his prolonged radiation exposure in March 2011. The 58-year old former Fukushima Daiichi chief passed away in a hospital in Tokyo.