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"Iron-hearted" manager for Fukushima Daiichi decommissioning

January 17, 2014

'Iron-hearted' manager in charge of ending Fukushima nuclear crisis




Nuclear plant manager Naohiro Masuda developed such a fearsome reputation that his subordinates called him “iron-hearted.”

But he is also known as a boss who gets things done, and this may be the reason he was put in charge of the enormous task of decommissioning the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant and ending the contaminated water problem there.

His work will start in April.

“Many local residents still cannot return to their homes,” Masuda, 55, said. “I will be fully committed to solve the problem at the site where the real work is being done.”

Masuda was the manager of the Fukushima No. 2 nuclear power plant when the Great East Japan Earthquake struck on March 11, 2011, spawning a tsunami that caused the triple meltdown at the No. 1 plant.

The waves also swamped the No. 2 plant. Some workers there couldn’t contact family members or learned that their homes had been washed away.

Masuda yelled at his subordinates not to be distracted by the disaster. “Recite what you should do,” he told them while giving precise instructions.

He also told those who wanted to go home to hold on a little longer.


“I thought the workers’ morale would break down if some of their colleagues were allowed to leave the site,” Masuda said, looking back on his actions.

Using his memory of blueprints and personnel arrangements, Masuda gave rapid-fire orders to his workers in the wake of the disaster. The external power source at the No. 2 plant was still functional, and it restored the plant’s cooling system to avert a nuclear crisis.

Masuda and his strict management style have been compared to Masao Yoshida, the former chief of the No. 1 plant who had endeared himself to his subordinates. The two plant managers were called “warm-hearted Yoshida and iron-hearted Masuda.”

Yoshida died last year of esophageal cancer.

Masuda has worked three times at the Fukushima No. 2 plant, including his initial years with Tokyo Electric Power Co., the operator of the Fukushima nuclear plants.

He has spent about half of his career at nuclear plants and accumulated experience as “a builder” in charge of nuclear power plant construction.

He cited “a decline of on-site capabilities” behind the disaster at the No. 1 plant.

The Fukushima nuclear crisis is far from over, and radioactive water continues to leak at the site. Decommissioning the reactors is expected to take more than 30 years to complete.

Masuda will live in the familiar prefecture again, leading about 4,000 workers tasked with ending Japan’s worst-ever nuclear accident.


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