by David McNeill / via The Independent / March 2, 2013 /
They displayed a bravery few can comprehend, yet very little is known about the men who stayed behind to save Japan’s stricken nuclear plant. In a rare interview, David McNeill meets Atsufumi Yoshizawa, who was at work on 11 March 2011 when disaster struck
It was, recalls Atsufumi Yoshizawa, a suicide mission: volunteering to return to a dangerously radioactive nuclear power plant on the verge of tipping out of control.
As he said goodbye to his colleagues they saluted him, like soldiers in battle. The wartime analogies were hard to avoid: in the international media he was a kamikaze, a samurai or simply one of the heroic Fukushima 50. The descriptions still embarrass him. “I’m not a hero,” he says. “I was just trying to do my job.”
A stoic, soft-spoken man dressed in the blue utility suit of his embattled employer Tokyo Electric Power Co., (Tepco) Mr Yoshizawa still finds it hard to dredge up memories of fighting to stop catastrophe at the Fukushima Daiichi plant. Two years later, debate still rages about responsibility for the planet’s worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl, and its impact. Fish caught near the plant this month contained over 5,000 times safe radiation limits, according to state broadcaster NHK.