More than just telling us about one of the biggest nuclear accidents the country has ever faced, the Japanese series The Days tells us how, through our actions, we are bringing our doom upon ourselves. The Days, tells us the true story of what happened at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant on March 11, 2011, and how the catastrophe shook the entire nation and made the people realize that we cannot take nature for granted. Though the series tweaks the names of certain characters, it does not tamper with the basic conflicts that were faced by the people at the forefront. Masao Yoshida, a nuclear engineer, was the general manager of the Nuclear Asset Management Department at TEPCO (Tokyo Electric Power Company), and he was at the helm of affairs, as shown in the series when the disaster took place. He was coordinating with Masataka Shimizu, President, and CEO of TEPCO, as well as the then prime minister of Japan, Naoto Kan, whose name has been changed in The Days. It was rightly depicted that there was a lack of coordination between all three of them.
The TEPCO headquarters was getting pressured by the ministry, and they were doing the same thing with Yoshida, who was in the control room situated near the Fukushima reactor at that time. The problem, in reality, was that no one in the ministry had any clue about what was happening, but still, they considered it their birthright to interfere in each and every matter, making sure that the engineers explained everything to them beforehand and solved all their queries before taking any step. The most absurd conflict that happened was about the use of saltwater to cool down the reactors. Every engineer who was present at the scene knew very clearly that the saltwater wouldn’t cause any problems and that it was perfectly normal to use it for this purpose. But somehow, some person in the ministry did his own scientific research and found out that it could create problems. Unnecessary debates like these could have been avoided as it was a criminal waste of time and the engineers were trying to clear the doubts of the ministers when they should have been dealing with the problem at hand. The worst thing that could have been done, which was also very aptly depicted in The Days, was that Yoshida was not allowed to make decisions on his own. He was a man who was on the ground, who understood the root cause of the problem, who had more knowledge about the ongoing issue as compared to anybody else, yet for every small thing, he had to first call his headquarters who then contacted the prime minister’s office, and finally, if everything went right, the engineers were given a green signal.
After doing some background research and watching The Days, we came to the conclusion that the advisors to the prime minister didn’t know the kind of threat they were dealing with, and instead of showing gratitude, they were taking the lives of the technicians for granted. In one of the scenes, we hear the prime minister telling the people from the armed forces that they should not hesitate to risk their lives for the wellbeing of the nation since he was doing the same. Though we don’t know if this exact conversation happened in real life or not, we can surely say that the people sitting in the ministry were not taking any sort of risk, and they were delusional if they were thinking that.
The Days has explained in detail why the engineers wanted to pump water manually inside the reactor, and that was one of the main challenges that they were finding very hard to overcome. They used car batteries to open the valves, though even after that, they had to sprinkle water through the choppers and use equipment and vehicles generally used to construct buildings to create artificial rain for the reactors to cool down. In simple terms, it can be said that the heat generated from nuclear fission produces steam and keeps the turbine in motion, which in turn leads to the production of electricity.
When the nuclear reactor stops all of a sudden, it has to be cooled down immediately, and there is an entire system in place for that. When that cooling system stops working, and even the emergency one fails, then water has to be manually put inside, and that is what Yoshida and others were trying to do. There were three hydrogen explosions that had happened in reality, and the reason was similar to what was shown in The Days, i.e., the engineers were unable to kickstart the cooling system installed in the reactors as there was no electricity, nor were they able to manually bring down the temperature and pressure of the entire plant. We were shown in The Days that the emergency generators were located at the bottom levels of the buildings, and that was one of the prime reasons they got submerged in water and stopped functioning when the tsunami hit the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant.
According to what we read, the private company Tepco was told time and again that the design of their building was not tsunami-resistant and that they needed to make changes to it immediately. The experts said that the tsunami was not an unprecedented event for the region, but still, for some unknown reason, the owners just didn’t make the necessary changes, which in turn aided in causing such a huge disaster. After the accident happened, there was a state of utter chaos where TEPCO and the government didn’t know in which capacity they should act. There was a lot of confusion regarding the roles, and additionally, the poor communication and lack of knowledge on the government’s part were not helping anybody’s cause.
Amidst all the politics, bureaucracy, chaos, and destruction, there were a set of people who were not only dedicated to the cause but also willing to sacrifice their lives if the need arose. A lot of people could have easily run away, but instead, they decided to stay back, and some even turned up at the nuclear plant to help in whatever manner they could, even when they fully understood the risk they were undertaking. Masao Yoshida might not have been able to prevent the damage as much as he would have wanted, but he and his team put forth a valiant effort without caring for their lives and that kind of selflessness we do not see that often in today’s time.