Tepco Chairman: If crisis worsened, it’s difficult legally to order workers to stay at Fukushima plant when all of them could die — We can’t give them an order that might lead to their deaths

Published: June 27th, 2012 at 12:01 am ET


Q&A with TEPCO boss Katsumata
The Daily Yomiuri
Kisaki Ozawa / Yomiuri Shimbun Staff Writer
June 27, 2012

The following is an excerpt of an exclusive interview with Tsunehisa Katsumata, chairman of Tokyo Electric Power Co.


Q: Did you plan countermeasures to take if the crisis got worse?

A: It is a difficult legal issue for the company to order its staff to stay at the plant when all of them could die. We cannot give them an order that might lead to their deaths if the situation gets worse, and there is no legislation to deal with such a situation.


Published: June 27th, 2012 at 12:01 am ET


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71 comments to Tepco Chairman: If crisis worsened, it’s difficult legally to order workers to stay at Fukushima plant when all of them could die — We can’t give them an order that might lead to their deaths

  • getoutwhileyoustillcan

    Ok. So umm, what happens when everyone has to leave? Anyone have any ideas? Or umm, are we just gonna call it game over? Planet dead? Anyone home? Did everyone leave already? Umm, hello?

    • getoutwhileyoustillcan

      Did you just not think about that part yet? Tell me you're at least trying to think up something. Just humor me a little.

    • getoutwhileyoustillcan

      Oh I get it. This is a joke, right? You're not really worried about legal liabilities when the whole planet might die from this. That would be silly.

      • ENENews

        The concern is probably about possible criminal charges because the workers were under their control.

        Though a similar duty of care extending to the public might be nice when it comes to the nuclear industry.

        • getoutwhileyoustillcan

          I don't think being legal is gonna do them much good, now that they unleashed hell.

        • hbjon hbjon

          What I've heard and read about these heroes is that they lack the self centered fears and concerns of any health hazards and they are focused on getting this job done. Sure, all the required safety measures are taken, but they are well aware that "The good of the many, outweighs the good of the few". What drives action? Necesity drives action. A computation on the optimum solution demands action. Get'r done. It is legal to save all of humanity.

  • NoNukes NoNukes

    Of course, they are now giving orders that "that might lead to their deaths."

    They have been, are, and will be killing their employees, along with others.

    In true Tepco tradition, they are lying about it, and this quote is but one example of the way they lie.

    Here, by discussing it as a future problem, they encourage the belief that it is not happening now, that it has not happened already.

    We have seen this strategy before.

  • irradiatedinbako

    Then this will mean that the yakuza has scattered like cockroaches .. Noda has zilch balls or power left .. Tepco execs will scramble as well.

    Order the Japanese military in.

    Ask for and accept the international help we have been begging for before it goes too far to remediate at all.

    Hell .. beg for volunteers from all nations .. and charge Tepco execs for the crime against humanity if they do nothing but whine and apologize and run.

    What a chicken shit statement to make .. but so very telling.

  • apostrophes

    Is he preparing us for the abandonment of the plant?

  • Anthony Anthony

    *** We cannot give them an order that might lead to their deaths if the situation gets worse, and there is no legislation to deal with such a situation.***

    Well you did that to the rest of the world.

  • Seitsukie

    That's a funny and well-smokescreened way of saying "If [when] this situation gets worse, we can't be held responsible if we completely bail on Fuku-Dai like we wanted to when this all started- we can't very well have these workers die on us immediately. That would rob the 20millisievert/year limit of its opportunity to do so in horrible and excruciating ways."

  • Max1 Max1

    I don't get it…

    … They are allowed to create Frankensteins Monster however if they let it loose, they'll evacuate the village so it can pillage it at will?

    Why are they allowed to create the monster in the first place?

  • Max1 Max1

    Me thinks Tsunehisa Katsumata thinks too much about the disaster his company created and instead should follow the advice TEPCO has issued that says: "Ignore your fears, all will be better when you do."

    Bitter pills they make for themselves to swallow.

  • Max1 Max1

    If the nuclear industry is legally allowed to create some of the most toxic substances know to life…
    … How can the industry NOT be held legally accountable when disasters like this happen?

  • weepsforthechildren

    Abandon the plant but "we'll leave the light on for you" …'cause we don't know how to turn it off…

  • norbu norbu

    They bought the legal system.

  • pure water

    Why not ask all who claimed that radiation is not a big issue to go and prove their words, doing something useful? People involved in the PR campaign all over the world are more than enough for clearing several plants. IAEA, where are they with claims for thousands of years safe work? Sould not they do something more practical than visits and empty declarations?

  • Jebus Jebus

    This is an absolutely classic example of corporate hubris to the definition.

    For him to think that he even has the power to order people to stay, even with their inpending demise is astounding.
    And then to look towards legislation to protect this condescending attitude towards the "minions" below him, shows the absurd "reality" that he lives in.

    The average worker there doesn't even work for him and receives a small percentage of the wages that are contracted towards each worker.

    Lead by example, Mr. Tepco chairman. put on your gloves and show your workers the pride in your tragically failed industry and give them the they deserve for putting their life on the line to mitigate this disaster and take one for your company. You and your industry suck, for taking your country to its knees.

    I'm giving you a great big fat fuku middle finger for your industries ability to destroy as much of the planet earth as humanly possible in the shortest amount of time.

  • TheBigPicture TheBigPicture

    "We can’t give them an order that might lead to their deaths"

    What a wonderful technology man developed. One plant has an accident, spews radiation on everyone and everything, and they can't guarantee anything. Man gambled and lost, big time. The only sane thing we can do now is shut down all nuclear plants. And hopefully before another country is taken out from an accident. Who's next? France? ..U.S.? …Its a game of chance.

    • Anthony Anthony

      What odds do you give the country with 14 known problematic nuclear plants simultaneously?

      I mean, really?

  • jedi jedi

    Sorry but think if it W.W.2 ,They flew into ships and die
    for the good of the Japan ?Why not now? The mob , unions? Then
    call in the army have some 3rd body to watch or control!! this
    is a nightmare !all you mob guy no hard feeling if any …..

    • richard richard

      well, frankly jedi, if someone told me to risk my life for my pay cheque, i'd give them the finger and walk away.. which i have every right to do, just as much as the free citizens of japan can do.

      as jebus highlighted, no corp exec can order an employee to put their life at risk.

      war was a different matter.. and now, as then, soldiers will have to put their lives on the line – but it was the war machine that started nuking so any and all military sent in deserve what they get.

      but before any one gets sent in, send in the tepco execs, the japanese politicians and the pro-nukers first. the military can follow. once they have all expired, i may consider volunteering.

      • jedi jedi

        YES I would go for my kids . This is a war to save the planet!

        • Sickputer

          There are heroes working every day at Fukushima. If the crisis worsens other heroes will arrive. They may be volunteers, they may be soldiers, and they may be non-Japanese. But I guarantee you humans will do their best to save their country and the world with no thought of personal safety. A stupid ass corporate bureaucrat has a lot of goddamn gall to even speak about potential cowardice. Speaking from Tokyo is easy… Try strapping on a cheap ten dollar mask at the plant and sucking in deadly vapors.

          The current workers are all walking dead and I think most know their chances are slim for a long life. It will be no different for the next wave of fresh workers. But they will try to save their homeland.

          • Anthony Anthony

            Until the technology is developed, there is nothing technically to be done by may to *save the world* in this situation.

            For awhile I kept wrestling whether if it comes down to going to try to do something to help or just dying in place. There is nothing I can see of any benefit to be had by throwing myself into the fire personally physically.

            This is a checkmate situation scientifically.

            Man cant even get along enough to attack the problem effectively.

            The trick is to keep your head and emotions together in times of crisis.

            We are doomed in the hands of apathetic dishonest people, and that's a fact.

          • Magda

            How right you are Sickputer. I recall this time last year reading about the deliberate sacrifice of many older Japanese who volunteered to be part of the cleanup at the plant fully understanding that they would die from it. It was a case of protecting younger people who had more of their lives to live. Admittedly many were drafted without having a clue that it was so lethal.

      • hbjon hbjon

        So, your throwing everyone under the bus except the banks who financed this misery and GE that developed this evil machine? My guess is that the banks, government, and utilities never understood the dangers.

  • Tumrgrwer Tumrgrwer

    Chernobyl took about 800 thousand conscripts to almost contain. Times that by 3 or 4 for fuku. Nope not enough people willing to die. We are in some deep doodoo here. Japan doesn't have enough kamikaze types left. No one want's to fight a losing battle.

    Let us be kind, one to another, for we are each of us together in our pain!

    • Anthony Anthony

      Fourteen problematic reactors in Japan alone. Several other problematic reactors elsewhere in the world as well.

    • Shammalammadingdong

      The USSR and it's political system was the only country on the planet with the capability of controlling a reactor accident like this.

      The cost destroyed the country. US didn't win the cold war by participating in the cold war. We won by default when Chernobyl drained their cash.

      Japan has never been capable. A private company on top of that? Yeah. Fat chance. They're never going to pay what it would take to clean up / fix / half-ass anything.

  • Max1 Max1

    Just because one holds Pandora's Box in their hands does NOT grant them a waiver on culpability for opening it…
    … Just saying.

  • irradiatedinbako

    It's easy .. think of all the NYFD and PD who thought nothing of their own lives before they answered the call.

    There are true Japanese nationals left .. even if they are fighting their own.

    The military .. civil defense troops should have already been prepped and trained and on standby.

    There are folks who would volunteer to help from all nations.

    It's too easy .. you are talking about a backup plan at this point .. thank goodness it's not "mobilize and evacuate the world" yet ..

    Sheer folly and criminality for tepco execs not to have looked further into this. Not too late.

    You tepco bozos have on your hands a situation you cannot simply walk away from like a california real estate foreclosure.

    • richard richard

      the tepco execs have know this since day one.. i reckon that's why the chicken little chairman hospitalised himself so soon, he realised he was the bringer of doom and had no stomach to deal with it.

      that's just one reason why i hold the mongrels in contempt.

      I see your note ahead about willis et al .. these guys are part of the fantasy of the fiction that the US is some kind of moral compass for the world… no disrespect, but they are only actors, paid to act.. they helped build the glass house.

      (doesn't mean you can't enjoy a movie, but it does mean don't believe the morallity of the high and mighty pontificators, they are trully just making the stuff up .. but i'm sure bako that you're aware of that – i hear you on the broken dreams tho).

      • irradiatedinbako

        Just one little add .. I am not out of touch in thinking movies are reality .. hahah .. even tho I did start off tonight w the godzilla image.

        Our recorded history .. our art and our literature .. our music and architecture .. are meant to reflect what is uniquely human.

        A most prevalent theme is self sacrifice for the greater good of humanity.

        OK So I didn't pick the most noble literary and historical figures ..

        I think bruce willis was hot when he saved his daughter and the world. And died doin' it.

        Cheesy .. but a most seriously and genuine human connection.

        I meant no triviality .. in fact I was trying to find a very common nonpolitical one.

        We gotta get together in this world again. Whatever works. Think about the thousands of years humans have to work together to protect the environment just against the nuke waste we have made now.

        Heyy .. 500 years from now some brainiac may uncover and uncode our digital conversation here tonight. Just before another nuclear tragedy for profit occurs.

        He might actually uncover an ancient dvd of cheesy bruce saving earth .. he might have an epiphany and be reminded that we might actually have had the conscience once ..

        It could happen ..

        Take care. πŸ˜‰

  • patb2009

    most countries can draft emergency workers like doctors or firemen.
    I imagine the Army can draft TEPCO workers.

  • irradiatedinbako

    If tepco and japan gov think they can ..

    Then I want Tom Hanks Bruce Willis .. Tommy Lee Jones .. even Arny .. and a million others to remind us that there used to be something great in humanity .. (even in fiction)

    If none of that spirit exists on this planet anymore ..

    Then we deserve to be flyswatted out of existence.

    Truth .. always next step.

  • Urban27

    This is actually putting the whole question on a peak. Is it possible to have nuclear technology in a democratic society.

    As soon as something bad happens, there are no legal means too coop with the situation.

    But if society is threaten – something must be done. Then there has to be stated some new law.

    Actually it is some sort of stupidity, coming now and say: we don't know how to handle this.

    There is no insurance for nuclear power stations. They do the dangerous thing, and no one is willing to take responsibility.

    • chrisk9

      Great point Urban. Corporations are judged to be people by our courts, so they can influence and control the election process. But they are not people morally or ethically and can do as they please with only minor consequences.

      Can we have any dangerous technology in a democratic society? I am thinking BP,Exxon Valdez. and Bopal to start with. Corporations will always protect their stockholders above all else, it is even the law. But democracy is not what stops responsibility from happening it is "capitalism gone crazy". We can have a society that is free and yet socialized in some areas. Our constitution provides us rights that uncontrollable capitalism is taking away, and yet never mentions "capitalism in the document.

      BTW if Unit #4 fall down there will be no need for human bio-robots like Chernobyl because any human will die before they get within 100 yards of the pile of fuel.

  • Power Change

    The only way in my opinion to get any real quick sustained action is to organize a massive BOYCOTT of Japan with a massive educational and publicity component. Money seems to be the ONLY language they understand, by they I mean TEPCO and Japanese officials. With the proper viral seeding of a viable plan this could hopefully maybe work.

  • Power Change

    Words in a comment section or even to TEPCO and officials are great but how can that make a difference without a leverage point. The only leverage point I can think of is BOYCOTT.

    • or-well

      Boycott and girlcott
      all of Japan,
      all of their exports
      from rice to Zen.
      Japanese women boycott Japanese men!
      Boycott by tourists,
      by Tea purists,
      by wannabe samurai martial-arts duellists.
      Boycott the stuff they make electronic
      be it from Japan or says China on it.
      Boycott their Manga, boycott their Sake,
      Boycott anything from Ibaraki.
      Boycott the business men travelling abroad,
      when they want a bus or cab, tell them to walk!
      Close Banff and Hollywood to Japanese tours,
      No more Anne of Green gables – go visit Paris sewers!
      No more "dates" with teen girls hangin' in Ginza!
      Ban them at airports -say they have influenza!
      Boycott their products, their culture, their people
      until they stand up and fight and stop being sheeple –
      oh…wait…ahem…maybe start with their Corporations
      and demand from OUR leaders THEY demand reparations
      from Japan for spreading nuke-poison
      and stretch the dialogue to our own shores then
      and say the price is relocating the families –
      with compensation –
      who now live in the poisoned parts of their nation.

      Just tossin' ideas with a pair of chopsticks.
      Lets not forget victims of their nuke dirty tricks.

      • or-well

        And just to be clear, I do favor mass consumer boycotts as a non-violent weapon of great power, aimed not only at Japan but our own system. Withdraw, to whatever degree you can achieve, from banking, goods and energy consumption, the false dichotomies, the stage-managed political dialogues etc etc etc

        • PhilipUpNorth philipupnorth

          or-well: Take refuge from all this madness, perhaps, in verse. πŸ™‚

          • or-well

            YIKES philipupnorth!!!
            I have just been perusing old headlines here and had to pour myself a drink!
            I mean pause for meditation…
            then I see your comment!
            I suspect you've noticed elements absurd within my verse; refuge from the madness is precisely it's intent,
            and perhaps to bring a grin for brows by worry-wrinkles split, and while I tend to save a kicker for somewhere near the end, and try to censor selfways so as not to give offense, I do believe it's clear sometimes my spleen I'm giving vent.
            I try and go with the flow, to where I don't know,
            and when I get there I'm oft most unprepared
            to find I've released both Hope and Despair!
            In a way that's a trouble –
            to read my stuff right
            means you have to think double.
            Or maybe triple – that's when too many influences ripple throughout the text as I've tried to round up
            too many suspects.
            I'm planning some nonsense for fun by the way –
            I'm going to launch NITCO – World Crime TV –
            for Off-Topic Forum readers to see.

      • WildTurnip WildTurnip

        You've been missed! Welcome back πŸ™‚

  • Just finished reading all the above comments. First when you talk about the "heroes" working for Tepco, remember the many articles in Enenews over the last year that implicates the Yakuza organized crime gang with recruitment of "temps" to help out. These temp workers have been recruited from a seamy Japanese neighborhood known for its population of drunks junkies and criminals. Some workers owe Yakuza money and some workers just want fast money and actually falsify exposure to work more. Not saying there are no heroes just that not every worker is one. Now when these workers die of cancer or other ailments a few years from now it will be hard to trace back to Tepco as to begin with they were not employees of Tepco but of the temp agency. And secondly when someone gets cancer there is no way of proving how you got it so legally Tepco is in a good position. But with super high radiation levels, if workers die within a few days of working at the plant or if there is substantial evidence of extremely high readings it is easier to pin sickness on Tepco and its radiation.

  • Tepco chairman is extremely interested in the legal implications. I'm sure they have a battalion of lawyers and spin doctors "managing" the crisis. Everyone here knows this to be true. Tepco chairman no doubt has already cashed in his stock options and wants to walk away with his fortune intact. Very rarely in this world do politicians or executives face any real consequences for their actions except for more briefcases of under the table cash. Sadly he is speaking the truth. He doesn't want to send workers to their death for legal, not moral grounds. It works the same way in Canada, USA and whatever country you live in.

  • hbjon hbjon

    Let's take a minute to see who is really at fault here. Using honesty and logic. So, who owns the nuclear fuel? Who built the machine (reactor and it's components)? Who decided on the location to build it? Who designed the layout of the onsite generators, turbines, fuel tanks etc.? Who guaranteed the loans to the utilities for construction of reactor? But, I can't but help think back to my favorite movie as a kid. Superman!

    • hbjon, there is plenty of fault to go all around. If I really believed that any of us are really living in a democratic society I would blame the US, Canadian and Japanese people. The citizens are to blame only in that we have let democracy slip through our fingers by collectively being complacent. But while we were playing video games, screwing partying and drugged out on booze cigarettes fast food and television, the nuclear industry has been very busy exercising its influence on politicians and the media. Ultimately blame has to be put on all those who made informed decisions to build reactors on fault lines for short term gain. That would be the international nuke industry who can't claim ignorance. They have a history of under reporting the problems while extolling the benefits of nuclear. But if your in the industry you know there is no permanent solution for spent fuel, no technology for major melt downs and no safe levels for radiation. So I say the industry is to blame, ultimately as they have the knowlege base to make informed decisions but choose instead to make choices that make themselves rich.

      • hbjon hbjon

        Yes Mark. You make some accurate observations imho. But my head is still spinning from trying to see where the majority of the blame lies after reading your post. It's my fault for playing a video game? My Dad's fault for "screwing"? Perhaps my Mom for watching TV? My brother for smoking cigarettes? My friends at the bar for boozing? My fault for going to the doctor and getting drugged? Democratic society? Everyone I just mentioned has worked their butts off for freedom and democracy, and we all believe that the owners of the nuclear fuel are to blame, because the nuclear power plant would not have had any accidents if there were no fuel rods inside them.

        • richard richard

          That's it, blame us Ozzies now.. ok … yes, it's our uranium .. all the citizens are living off the spoils, driving ferraris, drinking champagne, swimming at the beach. (Oh, no more swimming in the pacific, that's right)

          Joking aside, yes, we need to stop the uranium. Australia is a culprit.

          But you know what, the rich wont want to play that game. They wont give up bleeding the earth for their millions, not without a fight.

          We are facing a nulti billion dollar industry – can you trully image them turning into tree-huggers all of a sudden?

  • And finally on the USA coming in and saving the day? With due respect to all you American Enenews people, fat chance. Your government is part of the problem. These reactors were built by G.E an American company. Your president has documented ties with the industry. You Americans are on the hook for billions of tax dollars being diverted to the nuke industry. Your real American heroe, G.I. Joe, is nothing more then a childs toy. The real US army is busy keeping its underground heroin industry running in Afghanistan and its oil interests alive in the middle east. To help Japan fix its problem would be admitting there is a problem.

    They would have us believe that the learned scientists have this under control and can do more then dump water on the mess.

    Finally don't think I am a happy Canadian. It is my country that sold the uranium to Japan and all of us on the west coast are breathing in radiation derived from Canadian uranium made with American technology which the Japanese used to make Honda's for us enriching their soon to be disintigrated economy.

    I wrote here back in 2011 to boycott Japan and despite other countries collusion still think its a good idea to send a message to everyone that this is unacceptable. I'm told I live in a democracy so why do I feel unable to change anything?

  • Chelsea_

    I've been through hell and back physically. If they finally were to ask for any and all international help, I'd go in a heartbeat. I would accept death if it meant saving the world.

    • irradiatedinbako

      Chelsea .. noble thoughts.

      I have thought about how I could contribute as well. I would be pretty useless on the front line with no mechanical or engineering skills or even brute strength labor force.

      But women during ww2 found many ways to support the effort.

      This world didn't think we'd actually see those days again .. *sigh* .. we shall see.

      • Chelsea_

        Fortunatly for me, I have a dear friend who used to work for Davis-Besse NPP. And my mother is an engineer. I can learn quick and go, and I would.

  • Those who profited from nuke should now put in on the line to shut it down. NOT profit knowing the risks and then run away.

    Death to nuke.