Part 2, Part 3, Part 4
Dr. Haruki Madarame was the chairman of the now-defunct Nuclear Safety Commission at the time of the start of the Fukushima nuclear accident on March 11, 2011. He became instantly infamous and reviled in Japan when it was reported that he had reassured then-Prime Minister Naoto Kan on their way to Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant in the morning of March 12, 2011 that there would be no explosion. A few hours later, the Reactor 1 building blew up in a hydrogen explosion.
Nikkei Shinbun interviewed Dr. Madarame recently, who was as candid as he had been in the past few times he had spoken about his role in the early days of the nuclear accident, readily admitting his errors. (In his testimony to the Diet Commission that investigated the Fukushima I NPP accident in February 2012, Dr. Madarame said he didn't remember the 1st week of the accident, as he was so tired from lack of sleep.)
Nikkei's article from the interview is very informative but also quite long, so it will be in 7 installments.
In the first installment below, Dr. Madarame paints a picture of the Kan administration and himself not knowing what was going on and not knowing what to do.
As is quite usual in the Japanese media, no other media even writes about this Nikkei article.
From Nikkei Shinbun (1/10/2014):
編集委員 滝 順一
Testimony of Dr. Madarame, in the third year of the accident: "Worst case scenario was possible for Fukushima"
by Junichi Taki, editorial board member
Dr. Haruki Madarame (professor emeritus at Tokyo University) was the chairman of the Nuclear Safety Commission when the Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant accident happened after the Great East Japan Earthquake of March 11, 2011. He was in a position to give technical advice to the national government, but he was later criticized as not having been able to give accurate advice. He has maintained a low public profile since he retired as the chairman in the summer of 2012, but Nikkei Shinbun spoke to him recently.
In our interview, Dr. Madarame revealed that he had at one time assumed the worst case scenario whereby the melted fuel would be ejected from the containment vessel. He also pointed out that the current nuclear disaster countermeasures do not fully reflect the lessons learned from the Fukushima accident. We believe the testimony and analysis by Dr. Madarame, who was close at hand by the prime minister and advising him in dealing with the accident, could be useful in thinking about the future nuclear policy. He opened up reluctantly, looking back at those early days of the accident and sometimes defending himself.
"I wasn't sure what was going on in the room."
-- Where were you when the Great East Japan Earthquake hit?
"At 2:46PM (on March 11, 2011), I was in the office of the Nuclear Safety Commission (in the Central Government Building No.4 in Kasumigaseki, Tokyo). One hour later, the Article 10 notice (station blackout) based on the Act on Special Measures Concerning Nuclear Emergency Preparedness came in. Then the Article 15 notice (emergency core cooling system failure). The Nuclear Emergency Response Headquarters should now be established, but there was no message [from the Prime Minister's Official Residence]. So I thought I'd go there and wait."
"The Article 15 notice said the notice was by way of precaution, as it was impossible to inject water into the reactor and the water level inside the reactor couldn't be measured. So I [erroneously] got it in my head that the DC power (storage batteries) was still available, and that the water level couldn't be measured because the water gauge was broken. The DC power would last at least 8 hours, probably half a day easily, so I thought we would just need to keep the DC power by securing power supply cars.
"Around 7PM, a meeting of the Nuclear Emergency Response Headquarters was held. But as far as I remember, the topic of the meeting was mostly about dealing with the earthquake and tsunami, and the nuclear power plant was not discussed much. I didn't have an opportunity to speak [I wasn't asked for an opinion]."
"I went back to my office after the meeting, but then I was called back to the Prime Minister's Official Residence and at about 9PM went into the small conference room in the mezzanine floor next to the Crisis Management Center in the basement of the Prime Minister's Official Residence for the first time. Politicians in the room were very worried, and they asked me what would happen next. People from Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency, including Deputy Director-General Eiji Hiraoka, were in the room, but none of them seemed to have been able to answer the questions."
Dr. Madarame on March 11, 2011:
2:46PM Earthquake (he was in the office of the Nuclear Safety Commission)
3:42PM Article 10 notice (station blackout of Reactors 1 through 5)
4:00PM Held emergency meeting of the Nuclear Safety Commission and set up the emergency technical advisory. Declared that his organization would take such steps as the occasion demanded.
4:45PM Article 15 notice (ECCS failure in Reactors 1 and 2, but there was no mention of loss of DC power)
5:40PM Went to Prime Minister's Official Residence. Approved of the procurement of power supply cars
7:03PM Meeting of the Nuclear Emergency Response Headquarters (no opportunity to speak, returned to his office around 8PM)
9:00PM Went back to Prime Minister's Official Residence. Advised on evacuation within the 3-kilometer radius from the plant and on water injection and vent to prevent core damage
(To be continued to Part 2)
So Dr. Madarame wasn't asked for his opinion, and he didn't volunteer any.
It took two hours and 18 minutes after the Article 15 notice to set up the Nuclear Emergency Response Headquarters, and when it was finally set up, they didn't even talk about the nuclear emergency.
Banri Kaieda, who was Minister of Economy at that time, said in May 2012 that then-PM Naoto Kan couldn't decide whether to declare a nuclear emergency without knowing the legal basis in detail. And there was no one who would shout back at Mr. Kan.
Misfortune of Japan for having the wrong people at the very wrong time.
Was the Fukushima nuclear accident preventable? Dr. Madarame seems to think so. Stay tuned for the next installment of the interview.