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CNO Summit Diary: Indelibile Impressions From a Historic Week

Editor's Note: For the past week, NEI's John Keeley has been accompanying a delegation of American chief nuclear officers on a tour of Japan. This is his last blog entry he'll make before returning home to the U.S. 

To find all of the content related to this week's trip from NEI Nuclear Notes, click here. And for all of the chatter about the trip on Twitter, check out the #CNOSummit hash tag. Thanks to John for a job well done. 

(Tokyo, September 13) I won't miss jet-lag-induced risings at 3 a.m.each and every day -- and apparently I was joined in those by each and every American chief nuclear officer and communicator -- but just about everything else on this trip created a once-in-a-lifetime experience for me. So I thought I'd share those moments that stood out most to me: 
  • At every formal engagement between U.S. and Japanese nuclear officers this week our hosts started the proceedings with a formal apology "for the concern and difficulty and confusion we have caused."  
  • Takeyuki Inagaki had the closest and worst seat to the history made at Fukushima Daiichi, stationed in the unit 1 control room and later in the site's Emergency Response Center during the first 100 hours of the accident. The reflections he offered our CNOs about his experience were subdued, poignant, and commendably frank. If you asked him I'm sure he'd tell you he regards his English as poor, but he held our room in rapt attention -- and empathy -- while he spoke. I also thought he was surprisingly composed. My eyes teared up each and every time he uttered this haunting refrain, which he said accompanied each and every instance he had to order one of the Fukushima 50 back into harm's way for inspections: 'Am I [going to be] a murderer?'   
  • We toured the Daini and Daiichi sites in the Fukushima prefecture because, while they endured virtually identical trauma circumstances on March 11, 2011, the outcomes between the sites were dramatically different, and the way the sites responded to the conditions offered a stark contrast as well -- particularly from the vantage of leadership.  
  • Daini had recovery tools at its disposal that Daiichi did not, but there was a spirit of innovation, too, that guided Daini personnel. It's fair and accurate to say that U.S. CNOs very much applied learnings from the Daini experience into their formulation for the U.S. FLEX strategy
  • Pete Sena, CNO for FirstEnergy, to the Wall Street Journal on Thursday: "Daini's story hasn't been told. The workers at Daini are national heroes." In the Journal he was quoted thusly: “The takeaway for me personally is internalizing what I saw with my own eyes to make sure this never, ever, ever happens within the U.S.,” he said. “That’s the message I want to get across to my entire workforce, and to the folks on the outside: What we do — it’s not a business; it’s personal.”  
  • Naohiro Masuda, Vice Head, TEPCO Nuclear Safety Oversight Office, and Daini station leader on 3/11, very early in his briefing remarks to the U.S. CNOs: "As children, we were always told to hide under our desks at the arrival of an earthquake, but we never did. On 3/11, for the first time in my life, I did."  
  • Some 500 employees remained at the Daini station for upwards of a month, returning not once to their homes -- if they even had homes to return to -- and working as a trauma team in circumstances our industry had never even considered, let alone encountered. Many slept on floors, subsisted on rudimentary nutrition, and went weeks without changing clothing.  
  • Busing through the ghost towns of Fukushima, wherein storefronts bore the identical staples they did on March 11, 2011. 
  • Chief Nuclear Officers in the United States are First Safety Officers at their sites. It's a designation they hold sacred.     
  • They are also a special fraternity. They are, in Randy Edington's words, "Hostages of each other." One need only be in their company a few hours to notice the special bond they've forged. They are collegial and clique-free, and quietly and discretely they adhere to a rigid honor code: one which promulgates a culture demanding that they lead in a manner that ever serves the best interests of the nuclear industry, even, if need be, at the expense of their own utility. That code is neither theory nor supposition.   
  • Working in the nuclear industry is a source of immense pride for me. I'm returning home bearing a good deal more.

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