TOKYO Nov 28 The head of Japan's
Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, site of the world's worst
atomic accident in 25 years more than eight months ago, has been
hospitalised and will be replaced in his post, plant operator
Tokyo Electric Power Co said on Monday.
Masao Yoshida, 56, was in charge when a massive earthquake
and tsunami struck on March 11, knocking out cooling systems and
triggering reactor meltdowns at the plant, 240 km (150 miles)
northeast of Tokyo.
A Tokyo Electic Power Co (Tepco) official declined to give
details of Yoshida's illness but told a news conference there
was no indication that it was caused by radiation exposure.
"The government intends to watch the situation carefully so
this would not not affect the plan to bring the plant under
control," Chief Cabinet Secretary Osamu Fujimura told a separate
Yoshida, in his first public appearance since the accident,
apologised earlier this month for failing to prevent the
meltdowns. But he said conditions at the plant were improving to
the point where a "cold shutdown" -- when temperatures are
stabilised below boiling point -- would be possible by year-end.
He added, however, that radiation levels in the compound
were high and it was still dangerous for workers at the site.
The disaster prompted the government to declare a 20 km (12
miles) no-entry zone around the plant, forcing the evacuation of
about 80,000 residents.
A cold shutdown is one of the conditions that must be met
before the government considers lifting its entry ban.
Recalling the early days after the disasters struck, Yoshida
told the reporters: "Several times during the first week of the
crisis, I thought I would die soon."
Yoshida was a focus of controversy in May when Tepco
admitted that he had kept injecting seawater into one of the
damaged reactors, contradicting the operator's report that it
had suspended the procedure due to concerns at the prime
Experts approved of Yoshida's decision but the confusion
fanned doubts about whether Tepco, criticised for a cover-up
culture, was telling the public the truth about the crisis.
As an emergency measure early on, Tepco tried to cool the
damaged reactors by pumping in huge volumes of water, much of it
from the sea, only to leave a vast amount of tainted runoff that
threatened to leak out into the ocean.
It solved the problem by building a cooling system to clean
the radioactive runoff, using some of the water to cool the
(Reporting by Linda Sieg and Kiyoshi Takenaka; Editing by