The Mainichi Daily News carries this story. Even in the unprecedented situation after the quake and tsunami and with the nature of the radiation risks involved the reaction of some of the TEPCO employees is understandable; but that TEPCO as a Corporation was ready to give up and ask the SDF to bear all the risks smacks of Corporate cowardice and does not say much for the Corporation’s values:
Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO) told the government on March 14 that it wanted to withdraw all of its workers from the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, it has been learned.
TEPCO’s suggestion came two days after a cooling system failure caused by the March 11 quake and tsunami triggered a hydrogen blast at the plant’s No. 1 reactor. Though Prime Minister Naoto Kan rejected the proposal, the finding suggests that the power company was aware from an early stage that damage at the plant could develop into a nuclear disaster exposing workers to high levels of radiation. It is believed that TEPCO was prepared to let Japan’s Self-Defense Forces and the U.S. military handle the situation.
Several government sources said that TEPCO officials told Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano and Economy, Trade and Industry Minister Banri Kaieda over the phone that the company wanted to withdraw all of its workers. Both government officials turned down the requests and reported them to Kan.
Shortly after 4 a.m. on March 15, Kan summoned TEPCO President Masataka Shimizu to the Prime Minister’s Office and told him pulling out was not an option. He added that a joint countermeasures headquarters would be set up.
Afterwards, the prime minister visited TEPCO’s head office in Tokyo and said, “This is not a matter of TEPCO going under; it’s about what will become of Japan.”
Government officials confirmed that TEPCO’s suggestions on the night of March 14 indicated the company wanted to pull out all of its workers.
At the same time complaints are smoldering within TEPCO over Kan’s response. TEPCO officials said that the company has 4,000 to 5,000 workers at the plant, including those from cooperating firms, but now only about 300 remain. They are working to control and restore power-generation stations.
“Saying, ‘I won’t allow you to pull out,’ is like saying, ‘Get exposed to radiation and keep going until you die,’” one member of the company commented.
TEPCO could well have allowed all workers who wished to do so to leave the plant while bearing their corporate responsibility. I am quite sure that there would have been many TEPCO employees who would have volunteered for emergency operations. Masataka Shimizu and TEPCO are no Samurai – but perhaps that is no longer a reasonable expectation. It does seem as if the military are now in control.