Masao Yoshida, the plant manager who led the fight to bring Japan’s Fukushima atomic station under control during the 2011 nuclear disaster, has died. He was 58.
He died on July 9 at a hospital in Tokyo, according to a statement from Tokyo Electric Power Co (9501)., the operator of the Fukushima Dai-Ichi nuclear plant. The cause was esophageal cancer, the statement said. The illness was unrelated to the radiation exposure after the nuclear accident, according to Tepco, as Tokyo Electric is known.
Yoshida, an engineer by training, directed workers to stop the reactors from overheating after Japan’s strongest earthquake on record and an ensuing tsunami hit the plant on March 11, 2011, causing the worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl. He stayed at the plant, helming the disaster response for almost nine months.
“I can not imagine how hard it was for him,” Tatsujiro Suzuki, vice-chairman of the Japan Atomic Energy Commission, said in an interview. “He had to make a decision that most of the on-site workers should leave because the situation was getting worse and he also had to have some of his staff remain to work with him. That was probably the hardest decision he ever had to make.”