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Friday, 12 September 2014

Kan forced visit to Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant amid crisis

September 12, 2014

Former Prime Minister Naoto Kan forced a visit to the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant amid the nuclear crisis in March 2011 despite the cautious attitudes of his aides, according to records of interviews with persons involved in the crisis at the plant, highlighting the turmoil within the administration of the Democratic Party of Japan at the time.

In an interview with the government’s investigation committee, records of which were disclosed Thursday, Kan suggested that he had prevented a full retreat from the plant by going to TEPCO’s head office on his own, while the late Masao Yoshida, former manager of the Fukushima No. 1 plant, denied Kan’s claims saying, “We never said everyone should retreat.”
Yoshida died in July last year.

According to the interview records, Kan, after hearing from his aides that TEPCO was planning to have everyone retreat from the crippled No. 1 plant, went to TEPCO’s head office and made a speech saying, “If TEPCO withdraws all its workers from the plant, TEPCO will certainly collapse.”
Kan also stated, “After that, I never heard of a debate on a retreat.”

Yoshida expressed uncomfortable feelings concerning that, saying: “I never used a word like ‘retreat.’ I don’t know who said it, but I never would have used that word.”

Irritated about communication difficulties with TEPCO, Kan judged that “I’d better meet and talk with an official in charge of the site,” so he visited the plant on March 12, 2011, just one day after the nuclear crisis began. While his visit was expected to cause confusion at the scene, Kan, who majored in math and science at university, emphasized the significance of the visit, saying: “I was familiar with the area to some extent. I thought I would be a more suitable person to visit there than other politicians with a humanities background.”

Regarding this, Goshi Hosono, then a special adviser to the prime minister, testified in an interview with the committee, “I was opposed to the commander leaving the Prime Minister’s Office, but on the other hand, I was sure that he would definitely go to the plant considering his character. His personality is very volcanic.”
In the wake of the nuclear crisis, the government first instructed evacuation from a three-kilometer radius around the plant, and later expanded the range to 10 kilometers and 20 kilometers. Concerning the instructions, then Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano admitted to the investigation committee that the government faced a shortage of information.

“No one clearly told us whether it was really enough to issue the evacuation instruction for residents in a radius of 20 kilometers, or whether we should evacuate residents in a radius of up to 30 kilometers.”

Meanwhile, Edano stated, “I regret that I was not aware that, under the relevant legal system, once the government issued an instruction to stay indoors, it was quite difficult to lift the instruction.”

The records of interviews disclosed Thursday include those of 19 people, including 11 politicians at that time. In the records of interviews with Yoshida, some parts were not disclosed, such as names of TEPCO officials.

The records of interviews with officials related to TEPCO or Haruki Madarame, then chairman of the Nuclear Safety Commission, were not disclosed.

The government’s investigation committee interviewed 772 people on the nuclear accident. The government plans to disclose the records of interviews if relevant interviewees give their approval.

Source: Yomiuri Shimbun
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