Leader of Fukushima plant “started staggering… mumbling ‘It’s all over’” before last reactor melted — Appears to collapse, has visions while motionless on floor — Top official “bursts into tears” at meeting — No way to prevent ‘utter catastrophe’ — ‘Chilling’ sound soon heard, ‘gaping hole’ in reactor suspected

Published: September 24th, 2014 at 4:16 pm ET
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Kyodo News (Part 9), Sep 23, 2014 (emphasis added) : Reactor 2′s cooling system finally stopped functioning at 1:25 p.m. on March 14… [In 5 hours]… the water level had drained to 3.7 meters below the top of the nuclear fuel… leaving it fully exposed. There was also no sign the seawater was entering the reactor… firetrucks that were supposed to be injecting water into the reactor had run out of fuel… [Fukushima chief Masao] Yoshida would later recall that this felt like a “turning point,” beyond which “we had run out of all options and I thought I might really die.”… Yoshida went up to [the many workers on the 2nd floor] and said: “Thank you for dealing with the situation until now. It is OK to go home.”…  8:30 p.m… Yoshida then asked [if] there was any place people could evacuate to… Yoshida [was told] that the No. 2 plant was ready… With workers unable to operate the venting valves, the pressure continued to build… an experienced leader… felt that the reactor’s containment vessel could break at any time

Kyodo News (Part 10), Sep 23, 2014:: A [Tepco] senior official broke down and wept in the prime minister’s office when the utility felt it had exhausted all options to prevent an utter catastrophe... bursting into tears… Shortly after 4 a.m. on March 15 [Japan was] facing a potential rupture of the reactor 2 containment vessel… [Prime Minister Naoto] Kan soon realized it was too late to rein in the crisis… a chilling sound swept through the response office at 6:14 a.m, albeit duller than that of the two previous hydrogen blasts. Those present felt their blood freeze as they were told by reactor operators that the pressure inside the reactor 2 suppression chamber, connected to the containment vessel, had dropped to zero… radioactive steam could pour out into the external environment, leaving no safe place inside the plant or in the surrounding area. “The suppression chamber might have a gapping hole… [Yoshida] instantly decided it was time to evacuate the site.

Testimony reveals odd behavior just before ‘chilling sound’ and pressure dropping to zero at Unit 2: Early on March 15, silence engulfed the emergency response office as the point of no return neared. Yoshida stood up and started staggering around, mumbling to himself, “It’s all over.”… Yoshida was searching for the right time to allow Tepco employees to leave the plant, except for a skeleton crew… As he returned to his seat, he leaned back in his chair, crossed his arms and closed his eyes… he was thinking about what might happen if the reactor 2 containment vessel failed, discharging a catastrophic amount of radioactive materials… He could not think of a way to avoid such a scenario. [Shiro] Hikita… saw Yoshida’s body slide from the chair onto the floor. At first he thought Yoshida had collapsed but then realized he was sitting cross-legged as if meditating. With his eyes closed, Yoshida did not move for several minutes. Yoshida later said he was calling to mind the faces of his longest-serving colleagues: “There were about 10 or so. I thought those guys might be willing to die with me.”

See also: Secret Fukushima Testimony: Plant boss considered disemboweling himself after blasts… “I should kill myself” — “I was in despair… panicking… I could not afford to logically think” — Saw smoke at Unit 3 before it exploded, and “figured this was the end”

Published: September 24th, 2014 at 4:16 pm ET
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