TOKYO: The former boss of Japan’s Fukushima nuclear plant, who stayed at his post to try to tame runaway reactors after the 2011 tsunami, died of cancer on Tuesday.
Masao Yoshida, 58, was at the power station on March 11, 2011, when towering waves swamped cooling systems and sparked meltdowns that released plumes of radiation.
Yoshida led the subsequent effort to get the crippled complex under control, as workers battled frequent aftershocks to try to prevent the disaster worsening.
Government contingency plans revealed after the event showed how scientists feared a chain reaction if Fukushima spiralled out of control, a scenario that could have seen other nuclear plants engulfed and would have meant evacuating Tokyo.
His selfless work is contrasted in the public mind with the attitude of his employers, who seemed willing to abandon the complex and are popularly believed to have shirked their responsibility.
“He died of oesophagal cancer at 11:32 a.m. today [Wednesday] at a Tokyo hospital,” said a spokesman for plant operator Tokyo Electric Power Co. (Tepco).
Yoshida left the plant soon after being suddenly hospitalized in November 2011.
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.
Soon after he underwent surgery for cancer, Yoshida was felled by a brain hemorrhage and underwent another operation in July 2012, Tepco said.
He was still employed by the company at the time of his death.
The disaster saw three reactors go into meltdown, spewing radiation into the air, sea and food chain in the worst nuclear accident since the 1986 Chernobyl disaster.