Video via The Atlantic.
Unless you speak Japanese, it’s not clear what this video is. You can see that it’s a teleconference, with scores of people in various meeting rooms. As it goes on, you can pick up on obvious stress from the participants — voices raised, exclamations in the background.
What you’re watching is an excerpt of 150 hours of footage from the Tokyo Electric Power Company’s (TEPCO) marathon conference following last year’s earthquake and tsunami that knocked out the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant. This snippet, from March 14, 2011, shows feeds from TEPCO’s headquarters in Tokyo, a remote emergency-management site, and the company’s three nuclear plants — including Fukushima.
The Wall Street Journal explains what can be heard in the unedited recording.
[Y]ou can hear the voice of Fukushima Daiichi plant manager Masao Yoshida cracking as he alerts Tepco headquarters to the hydrogen explosion at reactor No. 3; the confused back-and-forth between plant and Tepco headquarters as they try to avert a meltdown at reactor No. 2 (they weren’t successful); and the grim tones of Tepco brass as they bring up the possibility of evacuating workers from the plant.
Here’s how that last incident plays out.
Managing director Akio Komori at Tepco headquarters starts off with, “We have to think about the rules for evacuation. Whether we can really stay in the control room of the plants. The situation could get very bad. Someone has to make a decision (for a pullout).”
Tepco executive Sakae Muto, who oversaw the company’s nuclear operations, chimes in with, “OK. Please do that. But before making a decision on that, let’s make sure we’re on the same page with respect to the time that the reactor core (at Unit 2) could (become exposed). That’s 18:22 (March 14), right?”
Mr. Yoshida: “That’s correct.”
Mr. Muto: “And the core will melt down and damage the reactor pressure vessel in two hours, correct?”
Mr. Yoshida: “Yes.”
Mr. Muto: “What does the accident management manual say about evacuation when the (reactor pressure vessel) gets damaged?”
Someone at Tepco headquarters: “Sorry, I don’t remember the guidelines for evacuation.”
It’s worth remembering that an independent commission determined that the Fukushima crisis was “a profoundly manmade disaster.” It’s not clear if the commissioners were privy to these videos before issuing their findings — but I’d be willing to make a guess.