The Yoshida Testimony – record of Fukushima’s former nuclear plant manager on the nuclear accident

Fukushima-molten-coresThe Yoshida Testimony. The Fukushima Nuclear accident as told by plant manager Masao Yoshida   12 July 14


The Asahi Shimbun has recently obtained a copy of the transcripts of testimony given before a government investigation panel by Masao Yoshida, who served as general manager of the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant when it succumbed to a Level 7 disaster, the highest on the International Nuclear Events Scale, following the Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami of March 11, 2011.

The document remains the only available official transcript of the testimony by Yoshida, the on-site commander of efforts to bring the situation under control, who died in July 2013 without having disclosed much to media organizations about the accident at the plant, operated by Tokyo Electric Power Co.

The transcript, not to be released publicly at Yoshida’s request, was gathering dust in government offices.

28 hours, 400 pages

The Yoshida testimony report comprises seven parts and contains about 500,000 characters in total. It is printed on more than 400 pages of A4-size paper.

Eleven of the 13 interview sessions with Yoshida were conducted at a Japan Football Association Academy meeting room at the J-Village soccer training facility, 20 kilometers south of the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant. The remaining two sessions took place in a quake-proof control center building, Yoshida’s workplace, at the Fukushima No. 1 plant.

The government’s Investigation Committee on the Accident at the Fukushima Nuclear Power Stations of Tokyo Electric Power Co. interviewed 772 individuals over a total of 1,479 hours. The Yoshida testimony was compiled during that process.

While an interviewee was only questioned for slightly less than two hours on average, Yoshida was interviewed for more than 28 hours, and was asked to respond on how he acted and what he thought at decisive moments. Yotaro Hatamura, chairman of the investigation panel, called the Yoshida testimony “invaluable historic material” because it is Yoshida’s only available official transcript.

Anger, Angst, Sense

In the Yoshida testimony, he is not only telling his side of the story………..

Multiple disaster of unprecedented scale

The Fukushima nuclear disaster, which involved more than one reactor stricken simultaneously, was a multiple disaster that humankind had never experienced……..

Were lessons learned?

Unfortunately, the government investigation panel’s final report failed to discuss and review the actions and judgments made by individuals who were leading concerned organizations at the time–the prime minister, industry minister, director-general of the now-defunct Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency, chairman of the NSC, president of TEPCO and general manager of the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant, although it is up to people to stop nuclear plants from running amok and up to people to save residents from nuclear damage.

Although the panel interviewed as many as 772 individuals involved, it failed to dig deep into essential aspects of the disaster because it made it a stated policy that it would not pursue the responsibility of individuals.

It is not too much to say that the government and power utilities are eagerly working toward preparing for restarts of nuclear reactors by adding height to seawalls, installing filter vents and reinforcing other facility components because the government investigation panel limited its analysis and reviews only to phenomenal aspects of the tragedy.

Voices of those who fought the unprecedented nuclear disaster should be engraved in history. History is humankind’s common property.

“I would like you to attend our hearing in the understanding that what you are going to tell us could be published almost in their original form,” a member of the government investigation panel told Yoshida during the first interview session. The Asahi Shimbun notes that Yoshida replied promptly, “That is OK.”

The government later released a written request by Yoshida that his interviews not be publicly disclosed.

Reports in nine installments

This is an English translation of serial feature stories on the Yoshida testimony report that began running online on The Asahi Shimbun Digital on May 20.

The series focuses on the part of human action and judgments, which the government investigation panel questioned Yoshida about but seldom mentioned in its report, and addresses three issues: who is there to halt nuclear reactors; if residents can be evacuated; and if humans can stop a crisis.

In analyzing and reviewing the Yoshida testimony report, The Asahi Shimbun perused TEPCO’s teleconference records, a time-series table of events and TEPCO’s other in-house documents obtained from sources. The newspaper’s reporters also interviewed concerned parties.


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