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Workers At Fukushima Expect To Die From Radiation Effects

Kevin Douglas Grant |
March 31, 2011 | 11:39 a.m. PDT

Executive Editor

Photo courtesy of Kordian.
Photo courtesy of Kordian.
After 20 days battling something of a slow-motion nuclear meltdown, members of Japan's "Fukushima 50" say they know the radiation exposure they've already taken will kill them.

It's just a matter of how quickly.

FOX News reported:  "Speaking tearfully through an interpreter by phone, the mother of a 32-year-old worker said: 'My son and his colleagues have discussed it at length and they have committed themselves to die if necessary to save the nation.  He told me they have accepted they will all probably die from radiation sickness in the short term or cancer in the long-term.'” 

This news emerges just after The New York Times' deep dive into the personal communications of employees and their bosses inside the plant, revealing a previously unreported conflict:

Many of [the Fukushima workers] — especially the small number charged with approaching damaged reactors and exposing themselves to unusually high doses of radiation — are viewed as heroes, preventing the world’s second-worst nuclear calamity from becoming even more dire.

But unlike their bosses, who appear daily in blue work coats to apologize to the public and explain why the company has not yet succeeded in taming the reactors, the front-line workers have remained almost entirely anonymous.

The International Atomic Energy Agency has recommended that Japan expand its evacuation zone around the still-critical plant, whcih the Japanese government has refused to do.  Radiation levels are high enough near the plant that officials have not been able to recover bodies remaining from the Mar. 11 disaster.  CBC News wrote:

Authorities have declined to say how many bodies might remain, but local media reports estimate the number is in the hundreds. The official death toll has surpassed 11,000 and may approach 20,000 by the time all is said and done.

The Japanese tendency to cremate the dead has also raised worries because fires can spread radiation. The Health Ministry recommends bodies be cleaned, and those with even small levels of radiation should be handled only by people wearing suits, gloves and masks.

In the weeks since the disaster, the nuclear crisis at the plant has overshadowed the painstaking work of finding victims in the rubble while rebuilding the world's third-largest economy.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy visited Japan on Thursday, calling for international standards for nuclear energy.  He is the first foreign leader to visit the country since Mar. 11, which makes sense because France depends on nuclear power more than any other country (comprising about 75 percent of its domestic total):

"The French president said he wanted to see international standards on nuclear energy established by the end of the year, and that France would ask G20 nuclear delegates to lay the groundwork for a special meeting of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in June."

As the world talks about what to do next time, workers at Fukushima are going down with the ship.



Craig Gillespie directed this true story about "the most daring rescue mission in the history of the U.S. Coast Guard.”

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