The Fukushima 50

While the world watches the misery continue to unfold in Japan, I can’t help but be moved by the actions of a brave band of workers, all anonymous, struggling to keep one corner of Asia and the Pacific from nuclear disaster — and doing so at enormous personal cost.

From the New York Times:

A small crew of technicians, braving radiation and fire, became the only people remaining at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station on Tuesday — and perhaps Japan’s last chance of preventing a broader nuclear catastrophe.

They crawl through labyrinths of equipment in utter darkness pierced only by their flashlights, listening for periodic explosions as hydrogen gas escaping from crippled reactors ignites on contact with air.

They breathe through uncomfortable respirators or carry heavy oxygen tanks on their backs. They wear white, full-body jumpsuits with snug-fitting hoods that provide scant protection from the invisible radiation sleeting through their bodies.

They are the faceless 50, the unnamed operators who stayed behind. They have volunteered, or been assigned, to pump seawater on dangerously exposed nuclear fuel, already thought to be partly melting and spewing radioactive material, to prevent full meltdowns that could throw thousands of tons of radioactive dust high into the air and imperil millions of their compatriots.

They struggled on Tuesday and Wednesday to keep hundreds of gallons of seawater a minute flowing through temporary fire pumps into the three stricken reactors, Nos. 1, 2 and 3. Among the many problems they faced was what appeared to be yet another fire at the plant.

The workers are being asked to make escalating — and perhaps existential — sacrifices that so far are being only implicitly acknowledged: Japan’s Health Ministry said Tuesday it was raising the legal limit on the amount of radiation to which each worker could be exposed, to 250 millisieverts from 100 millisieverts, five times the maximum exposure permitted for American nuclear plant workers.

The change means that workers can now remain on site longer, the ministry said. “It would be unthinkable to raise it further than that, considering the health of the workers,” the health minister, Yoko Komiyama, said at a news conference.

Tokyo Electric Power, the plant’s operator, has said almost nothing at all about the workers, including how long a worker is expected to endure exposure.

The few details Tokyo Electric has made available paint a dire picture. Five workers have died since the earthquake and 22 more have been injured for various reasons, while two are missing. One worker was hospitalized after suddenly grasping his chest and finding himself unable to stand, and another needed treatment after receiving a blast of radiation near a damaged reactor. Eleven workers were injured in a hydrogen explosion at reactor No. 3. Nuclear reactor operators say that their profession is typified by the same kind of esprit de corps found among firefighters and elite military units. Lunchroom conversations at reactors frequently turn to what operators would do in a severe emergency.

Read more.  And when your pray for Japan, remember these workers and their families.

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7 responses to “The Fukushima 50”

  1. Unfortunately, seems that the Fukushima 50 were all re-called tonight (after this article) as it’s too dangerous and maybe beyond any sort of repair or nuclear abatement efforts.
    (these 50 were heroes trying to save the greater population by risking their lives).

  2. Continuing to pray for the people of Japan, an honorable, peaceful and respectful culture. +RIP+ to the lives lost (may God’s eternal light shine upon you) and good luck to the survivors .

  3. And to think there is a considerable percentage of Americans who have no time for these types of people along with the military folks, especially among the “elites” and cities like Berkeley and San Fran.

    Watch the West Coast, and the difference of how they react to a potential minor threat of radiation compared to how the Japanese responded/are still responding to a horrific diaster. It will speak volumes of the “me, me, me, and only me” mentality of the left.

  4. Klaire …

    I’m not persuaded that selfishness and me-me-me navel-gazing are characteristics of only the left.

    Dcn. G.

  5. I’m not persuaded that selfishness and me-me-me navel gazing is characteristic of “the left” at all. It is certainly characteristic of the loudest of the right, along with a vicious cruelty that is truly disgusting.

  6. The msm will not let the story of the nuke plants go to waste. Funny, people read the story in the NYT and assume that it must be true. Perception, not reality, rules the day. But I don’t think the sensationalist media is interested in truth, only in selling newspapers. Reminds me of a June 2000 article in NYT that had a front page story which said,

    “spewed radiation over vast stretches of northeastern Europe and caused untold thousands of deaths and illnessess.”

    Afterwards, the UN issued a report of its findings, which concluded only 50 deaths were attributed to the Chernobyl accident, none outside the plant. After the UN report, the New York Times published a retraction article called “Experts Find Reduced Effects of Chernobyl” (6 Sep 2005). It wasn’t on the front page though, but buried on an inside page.

    Mark my words, there will likely be less than 100 people killed by this latest Japanese nuclear power plant incident, yet it will go down in the media and perhaps in the history books as one of the biggest nuclear disasters in human history, thereby solidifying in people’s minds that it must have killed thousands. The risks due to earthquake, flooding, lack of power, fresh water, food, etc. will have a greater impact than the nuclear power plant.

  7. Fair point Dcn. Greg (#4), of which I agree with you!

    I was referring (although not obvious the way I wrote it), as much to our military, in this case, an aircraft carrier full of our Navy who were ALSO in harms way. .They are now 50 miles away from the plants, all, including the ship, having been exposed needlessly to radiation.

    In the day to day life, the left loathe the military, many not even letting them on a college campus. The left also is not a fan of nuclear energy, which has no more risks than any of the other forms of energy.

    Had this situation occured in CA, especially N CA, where the military are certainly not welcome, those same military haters would be running each other down to be first in line for military , or nuclear expertise help.

    That said, yes, there is no shortage of selfish people, in any size, shape or color.

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