Testimony from Disaster
MINES Paris Tech is the leading institution, at the heart of the french nuclear lobby, a state within the State.
Crisis management students in France are hoping to learn from a first-hand account of the Fukushima nuclear disaster.
Franck Guarnieri, a researcher in risk and crisis management at one of France’s leading institutions, MINES ParisTech, has been studying the accident.
Guarnieri and his team have interviewed nearly 30 government officials, experts, and employees at Tokyo Electric Power Company who were active during the aftermath of the 2011 disaster.
He is particularly interested in the actions of the late Masao Yoshida, the plant manager at the time.
Some months after the disaster, Yoshida told the government about what he did. The transcript, titled the Yoshida Testimony, was released in 2014.
When Guarnieri saw it, he decided to publish it in French.
The job of rendering Yoshida’s entire 28-hour testimony into French was recently completed. The translation takes up 3 volumes, 2 of which are now in print.
“This is the first time the testimony of a plant manager has been made public. In the Three Mile Island and Chernobyl accidents, the plant managers did not give testimonies,” says Guarnieri.
Rather than simply focusing on the events and facts of the disaster, Guarnieri and his team are especially interested in Yoshida’s emotional and psychological state, as the person in charge of the accident response.
These are some of his statements:
“There was no manual for this situation. To put it bluntly, I realized I’d have to rely on my intuition and judgment.”
“If we had stopped injecting water into the reactors it would have been catastrophic, so I decided to continue.”
Guarnieri’s team says those words indicate that Yoshida had to make decisions based on information that was potentially incorrect. They say the Yoshida Testimony is quite different from other official accounts, which tend to include little regarding the human element.
France now operates more than 50 nuclear power plants, which supply 70% of the nation’s electricity. To date, there haven’t been any major nuclear accidents.
But Guarnieri believes the officials at these French nuclear power plants need to read Yoshida’s testimony.
Recently, he met with Jean-Marc Cavedon, the director of the French Alternative Energies and Atomic Energy Commission on the outskirts of Paris.
Guarnieri stressed the unique importance of the Yoshida document, and urged them to devise safety measures for extreme situations.
“There will be no progress in risk management unless we learn from other people’s experience and improve as human beings,” says Cavedon.
“Nuclear power plants need to improve their risk management, by facing up to the disastrous events in Fukushima,” says Guarnieri.
Two years after the nuclear accident, Yoshida died of cancer.
Guarnieri is now intent on spreading the lessons of Yoshida’s testimony, to make sure such a tragedy never happens again.
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