Awarded for his leadership during the Fukushima nuclear crisis in 2011.

Category: Response

Katsurao village was a quiet and peaceful small village in mountainous terrain, located 25 km from the Fukushima nuclear power plant in Japan. The situation was drastically changed after the 3.11 earth quake/tsunami hit for the village mayor, Mr. Matsumoto, and all of the villagers there.

He had all the villagers evacuated immediately to a safer place, far from the Fukushima nuclear power plant on 14 March 2011, only two days after the first explosion of the No.1 reactor and one day after the second explosion of No.3 reactor. Consequently, Mayor Matsumoto saved 1,600 villagers from high level radioactive contamination.

After the first explosion on 12 March, he tried to collect information on the potential impact of the disaster from the government and prefecture office but could not get any guidance or instruction due to chaotic situation of the administration. The only source of information he was able to make use of was TV news, which
only reported that the emergent evacuation zone expanded to a 20km radius from the power plant. He decided to prepare for the worst on 13 March by arranging 5 buses and 15 drivers for the 150 people who had no transportation measures.

On 14 March, after the second explosion, he instructed the village’s people to evacuate immediately, based on various unofficial information gathered from villagers and acquaintances. He determined to take all the responsibility, whatever the consequences, of the operation; the evacuation started at 22:45.

On the morning of 15 March, and following the evacuation, No.2 and No.4 reactors exploded which released a thick radioactive plume that covered the entire village. His clever and brave decision saved the lives of 1,600 village people.

Now the village office has been moved to a temporary office in Miharumachi, about 50km radius from the power plant and the whole population has scattered in various temporary housings for refugees. Katsurao village, after two and half years, still remains uninhabitable due to radioactive contamination.