Abe, Kan among 1,000 at memorial service for former chief of Fukushima plant

TOKYO —

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and former Prime Minister Naoto Kan were among 1,000 people who attended a memorial service in Tokyo Friday for Masao Yoshida, the man who led the life-risking battle at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant when it was spiraling into meltdowns.

Yoshida died of cancer of the esophagus on July 9 at the age of 58. He led efforts to stabilize the stricken nuclear power plant after the March 11, 2011, earthquake and tsunami knocking out its power and cooling systems, causing triple meltdowns and massive radiation leaks.

After the service, Tokyo Electric Power Co President Naomi Hirose praised Yoshida for his efforts on the front line during the crisis and said all employees of TEPCO must do what Yoshida would have done to cope with the ongoing crisis, NHK reported.

Yoshida, an outspoken man, wasn’t afraid of talking back to higher-ups, but he was also known as a caring figure to his workers. 

On March 12, after the No. 1 reactor building exploded following a meltdown, Yoshida kept pumping in sea water into the reactor to cool it, ignoring an order from the TEPCO headquarters to stop doing so as then Prime Minister Kan feared a possibility of sea water triggering a fission chain reaction. Yoshida was initially reprimanded for disobeying the order from above, but later praised for his judgment that eventually helped keep the reactor from turning worse.

Yoshida studied nuclear engineering at Tokyo Institute of Technology and joined TEPCO in 1979 and worked in the company’s nuclear department before landing a top job at the Fukushima Dai-ichi a year before the crisis.

Yoshida stepped down as plant chief in December 2011, citing the cancer, after workers had begun to bring it under control. 

Yoshida brought workers together and kept their spirits up to survive the crisis, and had expressed hopes of returning to work for Fukushima’s recovery even after falling ill, Hirose said.

Japan Today/AP

  • 3

    dbsaiya

    I wonder if Katsumata and Shimizu also showed up? Yoshida and his dedicated crew literally saved Japan while Shimizu checked into a hospital when the going got tough (just like Abe). Really incredible that there aren't any criminal proceedings going on with all these yakuin.

  • -1

    ChibaChick

    Ah, thanks dbsaiya. I was trying to remember the name of the guy who checked himself into the hospital the moment the going got tough - it was Shimizu.

    Was this Yoshida guy the leader of the group they dubbed the "Fukushima 50"? the ones that risked their lives bringing the plant under control? I think we and the world owe them far more than we will ever know and TEPCO will ever admit to.

    RIP Yoshida san.

  • -2

    smithinjapan

    Not only did Shimizu check himself into a hospital immediately after the crisis begun, he did it as far away as he could (well, Osaka). And while I don't think Kan necessarily did a bad job in the midst of the beginning of the crisis, both he and Abe are part of the world promoting nuclear power. They are not paying any respects, but only disrespect.

  • 0

    Disillusioned

    And, his TEPCO secrets pass to the grave with him. RIP!

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