Giving Thanks to a Rebel

From Business Week

Luckily for him, Masao Yoshida, 55, was on watch.

He was Fukushima’s plant manager, and he was among the 50-odd employees who stayed in the hot zone as radiation levels rose well above toxic levels. He was already a hero, although at that point only a foolish one. Yoshida knew that the reactor was vulnerable to seawater, and in the absence of emergency power or viable containment rods, that natural salty fluid was the only weapon he had. At the same time, he knew that the moment the reactor core came into contact with sea water, the plant itself would be effectively inoperable forever. His bosses at TEPCO ordered him to do nothing while they modeled the potential consequences of injecting seawater into the reactor core. An early attempt to flood part of the core was done improperly, and engineers worried that the contaminated seawater would simply flow back into the ocean. Also, by damaging the reactor this way, too much radioactive gas might be released.

Yoshida and his workers figured out how to prevent backflow of seawater, but TEPCO still ordered him to wait on word from the prime minister. He ignored them, and on his order, decided to flood the bay. Problem: Getting seawater into the core was impossible, or almost impossible, because of the debris and damage done by the earthquake and the flood. Fukishima workers began to use abandoned firefighting equipment to literally pump water in, just gallons at a time, equivalent to a dropper of ink in a well.

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