Fukushima Hero: Manager who foiled nuclear disaster dies of cancer
Yoshida, 58, battled esophageal cancer and succumbed on July 9, 2013. His diagnosis of cancer came a few months after the nuclear disaster.
In going against corporate orders after the 2011 Japan earthquake and tsunami, Yoshida is believed to have prevented the world’s worst atomic disaster in 25 years.
After March 11, 2011, when an earthquake and tsunami struck the Fukushima nuclear plant, General Manager in the Nuclear Asset Management Department of the Tokyo Electric Power Co., Inc. (TEPCO) Masao Yoshida remained in charge of the rectification of the consequences of the disaster for more than six months, barely leaving the station.
It was Yoshida’s own decision to disobey HQ orders to stop using seawater to cool the reactors. Instead he continued to do so and saved the active zones from overheating and exploding. Had he obeyed the order, the whole of north eastern Japan would possibly have been uninhabitable for decades, if not centuries.
After the catastrophe, the Japanese government ordered the forced evacuation of about 80,000 residents from a 20km no-entry zone around Fukushima plant which became unlivable.
On November 28, 2011, Yoshida was admitted to hospital, where cancer was diagnosed. Source
During the unfolding crisis, employees recognized the extreme risks of staying in the crippled nuclear power plant, as the hydrogen in damaged reactor blocks was collecting in dangerous levels. There had already been terrific explosions and high levels of radiation.
Yoshida recalled that there were never thoughts of evacuating, and instead he and others stayed on to try and avoid or delay complete meltdown of overheated nuclear reactors.
TEPCO has maintained that Yoshida’s actions saved untold lives:
[...]it was Yoshida who brought the nuclear plant’s workers together and kept their spirits up while battling the catastrophe.
“He literally put his life at risk in dealing with the accident,’’ TEPCO President Naomi Hirose said in a statement. “We keep his wishes to our heart and do utmost for the reconstruction of Fukushima, which he tried to save at all cost.”
However, "doctors have maintained repeatedly that Yoshida’s illness has had nothing to do with exposure to high doses of radiation. " Source
Yoshida’s death comes at a time when situational reports are painting a dire portrait of the continuing circumstances in Japan, where scientists have detected the highest cesium levels in a year.
Even two years after the disaster, as reported by TheAsahiShimbun, "radioactive cesium levels found in moss on a rooftop in downtown Fukushima exceeded 1.7 million becquerels". These "unusually high" readings come from rooftops 50 kilometres from the powerplant itself.
There have been suggestions that Japan and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) have been ’grossly downplaying’ cesium levels - that the amounts are Chernobyl-like, and more cause for concern than is being revealed.
Between the denials that rising Japanese child thyroid illnesses and Fukushima plant worker cancer deaths are unrelated to the 2011 disaster, and a Japanese government that is allegedly giving up on decontamination efforts, it’s becoming obvious that the ramifications from the disaster are rippling outward with with no signs of slowing down.
By Elizabeth Leafloor, Red Ice Creations