‘Yoshida’s Dilemma: One Man’s Struggle to Avert Nuclear Catastrophe’: But for him, Fukushima could have been much worse — The Japan Times

” Disaster response, even at its most heroic, can fall to people who would rather be somewhere else.

So it was for Masao Yoshida, who, while helming the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant during the disaster in 2011, gave the groan, “Why does this happen on my shift?”

But in some ways Yoshida, an industry veteran of 32 years, was the right man to handle the crisis. His leadership during those days on the edge, at times in defiance of orders from the top of the utility that employed him, is at the center of Rob Gilhooly’s new book “Yoshida’s Dilemma: One Man’s Struggle to Avert Nuclear Catastrophe.”

Gilhooly writes from the eye of the storm, putting the reader in the plant’s control room with almost claustrophobic immediacy. One of his challenges was to render the emergency in real-time. How much can prose, moving forward in measured steps, convey a lethal technology unraveling in extremis? How do you convey the breakdown of machinery without getting mired in technical detail?

“It was difficult,” says Gilhooly, who spent almost four years researching and writing the book. “What struck me about the plant workers — it sounded like complete chaos. My decision was not to make it sound orderly. I wanted it to appear chaotic, without the writing becoming chaotic itself. I tore my hair out over the technical details, because I wanted the book to be readable.”

In the end, the book is a cumulative experience — an intense ride that rewards endurance. Gilhooly weaves in the history of nuclear energy in Japan, interviews with experts and re-created conversations among the plant workers.

“Yoshida was a straight talker from Osaka — a larger-than-life personality,” says Gilhooly, who interviewed the superintendent off the record. “He was different from the other superintendents, more prepared to stick his neck out. He was sharper, more bloody-minded. When tipping his hat to authority, he may have done so with a quietly raised middle finger.”

This attitude might have saved lives, when, after a hydrogen blast at the No. 1 plant, Tepco HQ in Tokyo ordered staff to evacuate. Yoshida knew that the executives had little idea of what was actually happening at the plant. Going behind the backs of his superiors, he contacted then-Prime Minister Naoto Kan, insisting that leaving the plant would be reckless. The utility also ordered that seawater not be pumped through the reactor as coolant, since that would render it useless for energy generation in the future. Exposed to life-threatening levels of radiation, Yoshida and his team defied the order, scrambling to cool the overheating reactor with seawater.

The desperate move worked. The team managed to cool the reactor, and later the Fukushima Nuclear Accident Independent Investigation Commission, which was authorized by the Diet, concluded in its report that “(Yoshida’s) disregard for corporate instructions was possibly the only reason that the reactor cores didn’t explode.”

In Western media coverage of the Fukushima disaster, much was made of Japanese groupthink. A culturally ingrained obedience and a reluctance to question authority was blamed in part for the disaster. Still, the responses vary, and some staff put safety concerns over company loyalty.

“I didn’t want to editorialize,” says Gilhooly, who writes with a calm, thoughtful voice, avoiding the temptation of melodrama. “But yes, Yoshida — and others — refuted the stereotype that was used to explain parts of the disaster.”

Gilhooly is talking to a Japanese publisher, but thinks a translated version may prove difficult: His sources spoke freely about the events at the plant assuming the interviews wouldn’t be published in Japanese. Still, Gilhooly, who takes a stand in the book against using nuclear energy, hopes to fuel the ongoing debate in his adopted home.

“I just wanted to know the truth,” he says. “There is a discussion that needs to happen about nuclear power — about disaster un-preparedness in Japan. I wanted to contribute to that argument. It’s six years on and already we are airbrushing some things out.”

The book points out the gulf between rural Fukushima and the large cities consuming the energy it produced. Gilhooly talked to Atsufumi Yoshizawa, Yoshida’s deputy at the plant, who recalled the first home leave with his boss, a month after the disaster:

“Tokyo was … as though nothing had happened. They were selling things as usual, women were walking around with high heels and makeup as usual, while we didn’t even have our own clothes (which had been contaminated). I remember thinking, ‘What the hell is this? How can it be so different?’ I realized just how useless it would be to try and explain the situation at the plant to these people, what we had been through and the fear we had faced.”

It is a punch in the gut, then, to read about Yoshida’s death from esophageal cancer at age 58, just two years after his exposure to radiation. It’s one of the many elements of the Fukushima crisis that stirs anger, demanding a change that honors the lessons and sacrifice.

Gilhooly points out that, unlike Yoshida in the stricken plant, Japan has the chance to make positive choices about the future, choices that should be informed by the suffering in Fukushima.

“We should think more about how we use energy,” he concludes. “There are things we can do better, with small changes in lifestyle.” ”

by Nicolas Gattig, The Japan Times

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Japanese anti-nuclear candidate wins election at site of world’s biggest atomic power station — The Guardian; Simply Info

” An anti-nuclear candidate has been elected in a region of Japan that houses the world’s biggest atomic power station, striking a blow to Tokyo Electric Power’s attempts to restart the plant in the wake of the Fukushima disaster.

Ryuichi Yoneyama, a doctor-lawyer who has never held office and is backed mostly by leftwing parties, won the race for governor of Niigata, north of Tokyo, Japanese media projected on Sunday. Shares in Tokyo Electric Power fell 8% on Monday after the news broke.

The vote was dominated by concerns about the future of the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa power station and nuclear safety more than five years after the Fukushima catastrophe. The result represents a challenge to the government’s energy policy.

“As I have promised all of you, under current circumstances where we can’t protect your lives and your way of life, I declare clearly that I can’t approve a restart,” the 49-year-old told supporters at his campaign headquarters.

Cheers of “Banzai!” erupted as media began projecting him the winner over former mayor Tamio Mori, 67, backed by prime minister Shinzo Abe’s pro-nuclear Liberal Democratic party (LDP).

Yoneyama had more than 500,000 votes to about 430,000 for Mori with 93% of the vote counted, public broadcaster NHK said. Voters opposed restarting the plant by 73% to 27%, according to an exit poll by the broadcaster.

Mori, a former construction ministry bureaucrat, apologised to his supporters for failing to win the election.

Yoneyama, who has run unsuccessfully for office four times, promised to continue the policy of the outgoing governor who had long thwarted the ambitions of Tepco, as the company supplying about a third of Japan’s electricity is known, to restart the plant.

Reviving the seven-reactor site, which has a capacity of 8 gigawatts, is key to saving the utility, which was brought low by the Fukushima explosions and meltdowns, and then the repeated admissions of cover-ups and safety lapses after the world’s worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl in 1986.

Tepco, put under government control in 2012, is vital to Abe’s energy policy, which relies on rebooting more of the reactors that once met about 30% of the nation’s needs.

The election became a litmus test for nuclear safety and put Abe’s energy policy and Tepco’s handling of Fukushima back under the spotlight.

The government wants to restart units that pass safety checks, also promoting renewables and burning more coal and natural gas.

Only two of Japan’s 42 reactors are running, more than five years after Fukushima, but the Niigata plant’s troubles go back further.

Several reactors at Kashiwazaki-Kariwa have been out of action since an earthquake in 2007 caused radiation leaks and fires in a disaster that prefigured the Fukushima calamity and Tepco’s bungled response.

Yoneyama, who has worked as a radiological researcher, said on the campaign trail that Tepco didn’t have the means to prevent Niigata children from getting thyroid cancer in a nuclear accident, as he said had happened in Fukushima. He said the company didn’t have a solid evacuation plan.

The LDP’s Mori, meanwhile, was forced to tone down his support for restarting the plant as the race tightened, media said, insisting safety was the priority for Kashiwazaki-Kariwa, while promoting the use of natural gas and solar power in Niigata. ”

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Read a relevant analysis of this situation by SimplyInfo – “Niigata Election Throws Wrench in Japan Nuclear Plans”

Koizumi appeals for help for U.S. vets who assisted in Fukushima — The Asahi Shimbun; Stars and Stripes

The Asahi Shimbun:

” Former Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi sheds tears at a news conference in Carlsbad, Calif., on May 17, after visiting U.S. veterans who are plantiffs in a suit filed against Tokyo Electric Power Co. in connection with the 2011 nuclear accident. (Asahi Shimbun file photo)

Former Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi is calling for donations to the relief fund he founded for U.S. veterans who claim their health problems resulted from radioactive fallout after the 2011 nuclear disaster.

Speaking at a news conference on July 5 alongside another former prime minister, Morihiro Hosokawa, Koizumi said of the U.S. veterans: “They went so far to do their utmost to help Japan. It is not the kind of issue we can dismiss with just sympathy.”

More than 400 veterans who were part of the Operation Tomodachi mission to provide humanitarian relief after the Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami have filed a mass lawsuit in California against Tokyo Electric Power Co., operator of the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant. They are seeking compensation and an explanation for their health problems.

However, in a 2014 report released by the U.S. Defense Department, no link was established between radiation exposure and their ill health. The reason cited was that only a low level of radiation exposure occurred.

Koizumi, 74, visited some of the plaintiffs in the United States in mid-May. Although Koizumi was a supporter of nuclear power when he was prime minister between 2001 and 2006, he became an outspoken opponent after the triple meltdown at the Fukushima plant. ”

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Stars and Stripes:

” YOKOTA AIR BASE, Japan — A former Japanese prime minister is calling on his countrymen to donate to a fund for U.S. veterans who say they were sickened by radioactive fallout from the 2011 disaster at the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant.

“They went so far to do their utmost to help Japan,” Junichiro Koizumi told a news conference Tuesday in Tokyo alongside fellow former Prime Minister Morihiro Hosokawa, according to Asahi Shimbun. “It is not the kind of issue we can dismiss with just sympathy.”

Hundreds of veterans, claiming a host of medical conditions they say are related to radiation exposure after participating in Operation Tomodachi relief efforts, have filed suit against the nuclear plant’s operator, the Tokyo Electric Power Co. A massive earthquake caused a tsunami that swamped a large stretch of northeastern Japan and inundated the power plant. Experts are still dealing with continuing leaks from the reactors.

The suit asserts that TEPCO lied, coaxing the Navy closer to the plant even though it knew the situation was dire. General Electric, EBASCO, Toshiba Corp. and Hitachi were later added as defendants for allegations of faulty parts for the reactors.

Illnesses listed in the lawsuit, which is making its way through the courts, include genetic immune system diseases, headaches, difficulty concentrating, thyroid problems, bloody noses, rectal and gynecological bleeding, weakness in sides of the body accompanied by the shrinking of muscle mass, memory loss, leukemia, testicular cancer, problems with vision, high-pitch ringing in the ears and anxiety.

People can donate to the fund, called the Operation Tomodachi Victims Foundation, at Japanese credit union Jonan Shinyo Kinko, Eigyobu honten branch, account No. 844688.

Donations, accepted through March 31, 2017, will be transferred to a U.S. bank and used, under the management of a judge, to support the veterans, according to a news release from the credit union. “

by Aaron Kidd, contributions from Hana Kusumoto

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Over 70 percent of Japanese against nuclear power plants after Fukushima tragedy — Sputnik International

Sputnik International:

” TOKYO (Sputnik) — According to Japan’s NHK broadcaster that conducted the survey, 22 percent of respondents want the country to abandon nuclear power plants in the country entirely, while 49 percent partially supported the idea.

The poll revealed that only 3 percent of those surveyed think that the Japanese authorities should continue building new NPPs.

In March 2011, a 9.0-magnitude earthquake hit northeastern Japan. A tsunami followed the tremors, flooding four out of the six reactors at the power plant Fukushima-1 and disabling the cooling systems. It became the largest nuclear-related accident in 25 years, since the Chernobyl disaster.

Of those polled by the broadcaster, 22 percent think that there has been no progress in dealing with the consequences of the Fukushima disaster.

The results of the survey are based on the responses of 2,550 people across the country. ”

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Lawyers’ group calls for more government support for those affected by Fukushima radiation — The Japan Times

” CHIBA – Japanese lawyers urged the government Friday to enhance health support for people affected by the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster, at a time when around 110,000 people are living away from their homes with the prospect of returning still uncertain.

“The state should provide periodical and continual medical checkups for free to those who lived or live in radiation-hit areas,” the Japan Federation of Bar Associations said in a resolution adopted during its annual human rights conference at the Makuhari Messe convention center near Tokyo.

“The results of the checkups should be widely shared, with consideration given to privacy, so experts can examine them to study the effects of low-dose exposure and map out countermeasures,” the JFBA noted.

Among the 110,000 evacuees, around 45,000 are living outside Fukushima Prefecture, home to the disaster-hit Fukushima No. 1 nuclear complex, and have to decide whether to return home.

“The evacuees may face difficulties even if they return home, as many communities have been disbanded during the four-and-a-half years since the earthquake, tsunami and nuclear disasters, while medical and administrative services will not be sufficiently provided there,” the federation said.

“On the other hand, some of those who decide to stay where they are now will carry double debt loads for their old and present homes,” it said.

Given the situation, the JFBA also pressed the government to expand support for housing and psychological counseling so evacuees can reconstruct their lives.

The adoption of the resolution followed a symposium the previous day, at which lawyers, medical experts and municipal leaders discussed how to address nuclear-related issues generated by the triple meltdowns at the Fukushima plant.

Among the panelists was Masaharu Tsubokura, a physician involved in medical practices in areas neighboring the crippled plant.

“The health problems the evacuees face have been caused not only by radiation exposure but also the changes to their living conditions as a result of evacuation,” he said. “Amid social isolation, those suffering strokes and developing diabetes are growing.”

The resolution also touched on the issue of where to ultimately dispose of radiation-tainted waste from the Fukushima disaster, with the mayors of the two towns the central government has selected as candidate sites appearing at the symposium.

Shioya Mayor Kazuhisa Mikata and Kami Mayor Hirobumi Inomata said they opposed the government plan, as the chosen sites are vulnerable to natural hazards and the facilities, if constructed, would damage their municipalities’ water resources.

Opposition to the sites has grown partly because the government failed to include local residents in the decision-making process and did not provide a clear explanation, the federation said.

Based on the view that the nuclear disaster violated people’s fundamental human rights, including the right to healthy living, the JFBA urged the government during a previous human rights meeting to review its pro-nuclear energy policy and eliminate nuclear power generation. ”

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Koizumi condemns Abe’s policy of continuing use of nuclear power — The Japan Times

” Former Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, who has become a resolute anti-nuclear campaigner following the 2011 Fukushima No. 1 meltdowns, criticized on Thursday the government’s plan to continue using nuclear power, saying it is “in breach of the election pledge” to lower reliance on nuclear power generation.

The government of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who sees Koizumi as a political mentor, plans for nuclear power to account for 20 percent to 22 percent of Japan’s total electricity output in 2030, compared with around 30 percent before the world’s worst nuclear crisis since the 1986 Chernobyl disaster.

Speaking at a press conference in Kagoshima Prefecture, Koizumi said the prime minister is “moving against the direction of lowering reliance on nuclear power as much as possible” as pledged by Abe’s ruling Liberal Democratic Party during campaigning for the lower house election last year.

“Has he already forgotten what he said during the election?” asked Koizumi.

The former prime minister also criticized the government’s plan to reactivate Kyushu Electric Power Co.’s Sendai nuclear plant located in Kagoshima as early as this summer. The complex is expected to become the first nuclear facility to be restarted under a new set of tighter safety regulations introduced after the Fukushima crisis started.

Koizumi said Japan could “go without nuclear power” if Abe made up his mind to do so, urging him to reconsider the resumption plan. It is one of the very rare occasions “when a prime minister can play a historic role,” Koizumi said.

Referring to the recent volcanic eruption on a small, remote island in Kagoshima that forced all of the residents to evacuate, Koizumi added Japan is a “country which should not have nuclear power” given Japan is prone to natural disasters such as earthquakes and eruptions. ”

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