Masao Yoshida has died of cancer of the oesophagus. He was 58. He had led the efforts to stop the radioactive leaks at the Fukushima nuclear power plant after the March 11, 2011 earthquake and tsunami induced a triple meltdown.
He famously disobeyed orders from his Tepco (Fukuyima’s plant’s owners) bosses and pumped massive amounts of sea water to cool down the reactors, which experts credit with stopping a much worse outcome, including massive radioactivity reaching Tokyo. Tepco was quick to state that mr Yoshida’s cancer was ‘unrelated’ to the radiation he received whilst working to reduce the scope of the disaster.
This week a high spike in radioactive caesium levels (150 times higher than Japan’s safety standard) was detected in the groundwater close to the plant. Removing the melted fuel from the reactors and decommissioning the facility is expected to take about 40 years.
An energy white paper, approved by the Japanese Cabinet in October 2011, stated that “public confidence in safety of nuclear power was greatly damaged” by the Fukushima disaster, and called for a reduction in the nation’s reliance on nuclear power. This was followed by the closure of some of Japan’s nuclear plants and stepping up inspections.
However in January this year the newly elected prime minister, Shinzo Abe, stated that he is reversing the policy and has disclosed his intention to take Japan back into the nuclear power road.