Japan from the inside out

Gold among the dross

Posted by ampontan on Friday, May 27, 2011

AT LAST we’ve discovered there was someone responsible for dealing with the accident at the Fukushima power plant who knew what he was doing and did it — site manager Yoshida Masao. It’s a shame the same can’t be said of the people in nominal control of the situation in Tokyo.

To quickly review: The government’s official record states that Prime Minister Kan Naoto instructed that seawater be inserted into Fukushima’s Reactor #1 for cooling at 6:00 p.m. on 12 March.

Kan aide Hosano Goshi now says that’s not what really happened. He claims that METI chief Kaieda Banri told the people at Fukushima to make preparations to insert seawater.

The record also states that Tokyo Electric began adding seawater at 7:04 p.m., but the utility says it suspended operations 20 minutes later when they found out a debate was underway in the Kantei over whether that could cause recriticality. The record first stated that Nuclear Safety Commission Chairman Madarame Haruki said it was possible. When that became a point of contention, however, Mr. Madarame successfully demanded the record be changed to reflect that he said “the possibility wasn’t zero”.

Finally, the record states that Prime Minister Kan gave the order after 8:00 p.m. to insert the seawater.

Now Mr. Yoshida has come forward to say that he took it upon himself to ignore the decision made in consultation with Tokyo Electric headquarters to stop the insertion. Instead, he used his judgment to follow the manual of emergency procedures and continued without interruption.

In other words, everything in the records compiled by the government and Tokyo Electric is now suspect. While the government amended Mr. Madarame’s statement, they changed nothing else. Does that mean the government would have us believe Prime Minister Kan gave an order to do something that had already started an hour earlier on instructions he issued two hours earlier?

Incidentally, Mr. Hosono claimed the Kantei had trouble communicating with the people on-site, but now we find communication was no trouble for Tokyo Electric. The decision to stop the seawater insertion that Mr. Yoshida ignored was made using a videoconferencing setup between Tokyo and Fukushima.

The revelation that the procedure was not stopped as originally reported has displeased the government. Said Chief Cabinet Secretary Edano Yukio:

“Unless Tokyo Electric has an accurate understanding of what actually happened and reports that, the people will be suspicious….the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency will have to ask detailed questions about how that mistake occurred.”

Substitute “the Kan Cabinet” for Tokyo Electric in that statement and it would work just as well, but Mr. Edano will never cop to that. In fact, he also said this:

“We have not at all hidden or sparingly released the information held by the leadership at the Kantei.”

The only explanation for this song and dance is that Mr. Edano must think he’s in vaudeville. We know they thought the fuel started melting the day of the incident, but the prime minister has lied about it — badly — for more than two months.

Speaking of the new, open style of truthfulness in government promoted by Kan Naoto, DPJ Secretary-General Okada Katsuya yesterday took it upon himself to explain why Mr. Kan has stopped giving the brief informal burasagari news conferences that have been standard practice for prime ministers since Koizumi Jun’ichiro. Mr. Okada had to make the exuses because Mr. Kan’s too high hat for that sort of thing. Here’s what he said:

“They weren’t very productive. The people always doubted whether they really had any value.”

Other than a generic political party convention, an organized street demonstration, or a cocktail party for the swells, is it possible to find a group of people gathered at the same place at the same time more unaware of how stupid they look and sound than the current DPJ/government leadership?

Meanwhile, Tokyo Electric is mulling disciplinary measures for Mr. Yoshida because he failed to accurately report his actions. That would be another TEPCO mistake. Their judgment based on their observations of the government was political, in the broad sense, while Mr. Yoshida’s was practical.

He deserves a medal instead.

It’s easy to understand the TEPCO position, however. The only time truth has had any currency with the past two DPJ governments is when it can be counterfeited to make them look good.


The account I read didn’t mention his name, but apparently one upper house MP from the opposition LDP slammed the government and Tokyo Electric for stopping the procedure with seawater. Now he’s talking out of the other side of his mouth and criticizing the utility for continuing the insertion. One wag said he should do everyone a favor and throw himself into the moat at the Imperial Palace.

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One Response to “Gold among the dross”

  1. Tony said

    Well said Bill. Unfortunately Mr. Yoshida has embarrassed TEPCO and the government. Both have interests in seeing him disappear and discrediting Yoshida will be the first thing they try. Sad really, but if I were an employer, Mr. Yoshida is the type of manager I would like to have.

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