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