TOKYO — Masao Yoshida, a nuclear engineer who took charge of the Fukushima Daiichi power plant two years ago as multiple reactors spiraled out of control after a tsunami, but who ultimately failed to prevent the world’s worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl, died here on Tuesday. He was 58.
Mr. Yoshida took a leave from Tokyo Electric in late 2011 after receiving a diagnosis of esophageal cancer. Experts have said his illness was not a result of radiation exposure from the accident, given how quickly it came on.
When the tsunami hit, Mr. Yoshida took command from inside a fortified bunker at the plant. In video footage of the command room released by Tokyo Electric last year, Mr. Yoshida can be seen at times pushing his workers to hook up water hoses or procure fuel, at times tearfully apologizing to teams he sent out to check on the stricken reactors.
At one point, he ignores orders that he is told come directly from Prime Minister Naoto Kan to stop injecting seawater into one of the reactors, a last-ditch measure taken by plant workers to try to cool it. (Mr. Kan later denied that he had given such an order, and suggested that Tokyo Electric officials had probably misunderstood.)
◇Compare with Washington Post article: “The cause was esophageal cancer, according to a statement from Tokyo Electric Power Co., the operator of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant. The illness was unrelated to the radiation exposure after the nuclear accident, according to Tepco, as Tokyo Electric is known.”
or The Telegraph: ” “TEPCO has said his cancer was unlikely to be linked to radiation exposure in the months after the disaster. The company has said it would take at least five years and normally 10 years to develop this particular condition if radiation exposure were to blame” or a post on Quartz: “He died on Tuesday from cancer. The irony has not escaped netizens, some of whom wonder whether his diagnosis was connected to radiation exposure. The plant’s operator, Tepco, insists it was not. Yoshida left his post in December 2011 after fighting a nine-month battle to stop Fukushima’s reactors from overheating, and a week later Tepco disclosed his diagnosis.”
Many experts have also arduously denied the relationship between thyroid abnormalities in children and the Fukushima disaster, using the same “too soon” argument, relying on a selective use of Chernobyl data. It’s not enough, but it helps to have media specify the experts denying any connection between Mr. Yoshida’s exposure and his illness.