The Hero workers at the disaster-stricken Fukushima nuclear plant in Japan say they expect to die from radiation sickness as a result of their efforts to bring the reactors under control, according to the mother of one of them.
The Heroes, who have been desperately battling to stop deadly radiation leaking from the plant – in meltdown since the Japanese earthquake and tsunami, are resigned to pay for their bravery with their lives.
The so-called Fukushima 50, the team of around 300 technicians, soldiers and firemen who work in shifts of 50s, are being repeatedly exposed to dangerously high radioactive levels as they attempt to bring vital cooling systems back online.
“My son and his colleagues have discussed it at length and they have committed themselves to die if necessary to save the nation,” said the mother of a 32-year-old worker. “He told me they have accepted they will all probably die from radiation sickness in the short term or cancer in the long-term.”
The woman spoke to Fox News on the condition of anonymity because, she said, plant workers had been asked by management not to communicate with the media or share details with family members in order to minimize public panic.
“They have concluded between themselves that it is inevitable some of them may die within weeks or months. They know it is impossible for them not to have been exposed to lethal doses of radiation,” she added.
The plant operator, Tokyo Electric Power Co. (or TEPCO), says medical teams conduct regular testing on the restoration workers for signs of contamination-related illness. It claims there have been no further cases following the three workers who were treated last week after coming into direct contact with radioactive water.
Although two suffered radiation burns to their legs and ankles and absorbed radiation internally, they have since been released from the hospital and are regularly being checked for signs of any deterioration in their condition, says TEPCO.
The company has pledged to improve the tough conditions for workers who stay on the site due to the short turnaround of shifts on safety grounds.
Some restorers directly tackling the problems with the fuel rod containment chambers are limited to 15 minutes at a time inside the reactor buildings or working near highly radioactive substances, including traces of plutonium that have appeared at numerous locations within the plant complex.
Living conditions for the hundreds of employees staying within the plant’s perimeter to support the restoration efforts are also equally as hazardous, say the authorities.
Banri Kaieda, the interior minister who also acts as a deputy head of the nuclear disaster task force jointly set up by the government and TEPCO, said 500 to 600 people were at one point lodging in a building within the complex. He told a media conference it was “not a situation in which minimum sleep and food could be ensured.”
Japan’s Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency says that workers were only eating two basic meals of crackers and dried rice a day, and sleeping in conference rooms and hallways in the building.
According to Kaieda, not all of the workers had apparently been provided with lead sheeting to shield themselves from potentially radiation-contaminated floors while sleeping.
Meanwhile, bad weather has delayed TEPCO’s plans to limit the spread of radiation from the plant. It has intended to spray a water-soluble resin to affix radioactive particles and substances to the debris sent scattered across the devastated complex to prevent it from being dispersed by wind and moisture.
It will now attempt on Friday test the synthetic solution using remote control vehicles to spray an area of 95,000 square yards at reactors four and six. The company hopes the resin will provide sufficient protection to allow restoration workers better access to areas critical to restoring the reactors’ cooling systems to prevent a meltdown.
Growing pools of dangerously radioactive water and deposits of plutonium have been inhibiting access to important parts of the plant.
A large sea tanker is also being prepared to siphon and ship the water from the plant after it was discovered that run-off containers and drainage tanks were almost full at three of the most critical reactors.
Prime Minister Naoto Kan has said it is still too early to say if the stricken Fukushima Dai-ichi plant has been stabilised. The U.S. and Germany are sending robots to help repair and explore the site.
A total of 11,500 people have been confirmed dead since the quake on March 11. Another 16,400 are still missing and hundreds of thousands more are living in evacuation centres.
And three weeks after the disaster in one of the most advanced countries in the world, 260,000 households still have no running water and 170,000 do not have electricity.
The French president Nicolas Sarkozy, on the first trip by a foreign leader to Japan since the devastating earthquake and tsunami on March 11, said he would call a meeting of the G20’s nuclear power watchdogs to discuss safety regulations.
“We must address this anomaly that there are no international safety norms for nuclear matters. We need international safety standards before the end of the year.”[via National Post, Fox News and The Sun (UK)]