March 31, 2011

Fukushima 50 ...Risk Their Lives and Lifelong Health To Save Japan

Fukushima 50 is the name given to a group of employees of the Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant. When a nuclear accident resulted in a serious fire at the plant's unit 4 on 15 March 2011. These 50 employees remained on-site after 750 other workers were evacuated...battle radiation leaks and fires, even at risk of not surviving. Their activities included assessing the damage and radiation levels caused by the explosions, cooling stricken reactors with seawater and preventing any risk of fire. No one doubts the bravery of the Fukushima Fifty, they have voluntarily exposed themselves to potentially fatal levels of radiation.

They only eat two meals a day, emergency high-energy biscuits for breakfast, and quick-boiled rice and canned food for dinner. The workers are restricted to packaged food because of radiation contamination fears, Reuters reported. They stuff the food into their mouths once they open the packets to avoid contact with radiation. In the evenings, they gather around in a safe room to cheer "Let's do our best!" and clap once, before wrapping themselves with blankets and going to sleep on the floor in rows "packed together like sardines".

Their heart-rending messages home were made public by Japanese national television, which has interviewed their relatives.
  • One relative said: 'My father is still working at the plant. He says he's accepted his fate, much like a death sentence.'
  • A woman said her husband who was at the plant had continued to work while fully aware he was being bombarded with radiation.
  • Another said that her 59-year-old father had volunteered for Fukushima duty, adding: 'I heard that he volunteered even though he will be retiring in just half a year and my eyes are filling up with tears.
  • "At home, he doesn't seem like someone who could handle big jobs. But today, I was really proud of him. I pray for his safe return."
  • "My dad went to the Nuclear Plant. I never heard my mother cry so hard. People at the plant are struggling, sacrificing themselves to protect you. Please dad come back alive,"

The sacrifice of these men has earned them the admiration of the Japanese public. They are perhaps Japan’s last chance of preventing a broader nuclear catastrophe.