Prologue to catastrophe

In this article, a worker at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station gives his eyewitness account of what happened there on March 11, 2011, in the immediate wake of a massive earthquake and tsunami that caused three of the station’s reactor cores to melt.

In September 2011, six months after disaster shook the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station in Japan, the newly formed Independent Investigation Commission on the Fukushima Nuclear Accident launched a national campaign to collect personal testimonials from those who experienced the accident at the plant and those who were forced to evacuate the area close to the plant. The commission launched a website to serve as an online meeting point; it published questions, and the public provided in-depth answers. For half a year, the commission received hundreds of responses to its queries. Though the commissioners found all the reactions to be insightful and useful to the investigation, they needed to hear several responses firsthand.

One such story was from a subcontractor of the Tokyo Electric Power Company, known as TEPCO, which owns the nuclear power plant. He was among several hundred workers who were at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station when the great earthquake and subsequent tsunami occurred in eastern Japan. He worked in the plant’s Crisis Center, located on the second floor of the earthquake-resistant building, and recounted his story of what happened as the accident unfolded on March 11, 2011. He was promised anonymity as a condition of providing his account...


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