Fukushima nuclear chief Masao Yoshida dies

Masao Yoshida (C), former chief of Tokyo Electric Power Co Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant, seen in a file image from 12 November 2011 Masao Yoshida, centre, had worked for Tepco for since 1979

Related Stories

Masao Yoshida, the Fukushima nuclear chief who led efforts to stabilise the crippled plant after the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami, has died at the age of 58.

Mr Yoshida died on Tuesday in a Tokyo hospital, a spokesman for plant operator Tepco said.

He had been suffering from oesophagal cancer, which Tepco said was not linked to his work at the plant.

Former Prime Minister Naoto Kan praised his "leadership and decisiveness".

'Finished'

Masao Yoshida, a Tokyo-educated nuclear engineer, was chief of the nuclear plant at the time of the disaster.

The tsunami swamped the plant, knocking out cooling systems to the reactors, which subsequently melted down.

Mr Yoshida remained on site with a small team to try to bring the plant under control.

On 12 March, he ignored an order from top-level officials to stop pumping sea water into one of the reactors - actions that were subsequently seen as having prevented the situation from getting even worse.

He later said of the first few days after the earthquake: "There were several instances when I thought we were all going to die here. I feared the plant was getting out of control and we would be finished.''

He was criticised, however, for not installing adequate measures against a tsunami while he headed up Tepco's nuclear facility management division, before the disaster.

Because of his illness, Masao Yoshida stepped down as plant chief in December 2011 - the same month Japan declared the facility stabilised in a "cold shut-down" state.

"He literally put his life at risk in dealing with the accident,'' Tepco President Naomi Hirose said. "We keep his wishes to our heart and do utmost for the reconstruction of Fukushima, which he tried to save at all cost.''

Tepco has said it does not believe his illness was linked to radiation exposure, saying the condition would normally take between five and 10 years to develop if radiation were to blame.

The disaster forced tens of thousands of people to evacuate from the area around the plant and it remains unclear when they can return.

Since the disaster, workers have been cooling reactors by flushing sea water through them - but this has led to a build-up of contaminated water which must be stored.

There have also been a number of leaks of radioactive water at the plant.

On Tuesday, Tepco said that concentrations of caesium-134 in groundwater had soared over the weekend. The company said it was investigating the source of the leak.

More on This Story

Related Stories

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites

More Asia stories

RSS

Features & Analysis

  • SyedTanks instead of toys

    Lyse Doucet on the plight of children in Syria and Gaza


  • Silhouette of manSuper-shy

    Why do Germany's super-rich so often keep their heads down?


  • Gin drinkerMother's ruin

    The time was gin was full of sulphuric acid and turpentine


  • The two sisters in their bakery'Must be mad'

    Why two Spanish sisters started a bakery in a desert


Elsewhere on the BBC

  • EscaladeBling's the thing

    The ostentatious Cadillac Escalade cruises into 2015 with fuel-gulping gusto

Programmes

  • The smartphones of shoppers being tracked in a storeClick Watch

    How free wi-fi can enable businesses to track our movements and learn more about us

BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.