Thursday, March 17, 2011

Fukushima 50 battle radiation risks as Japan nuclear crisis deepens

Who are the "Fukushima 50" -- the workers trying to take regain control of Japan's stricken Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant?

Twitter messages and blog posts by the workers' families offer an inkling of the "Fukushima 50," so nicknamed because the 180 employees at the site work in 50-person shifts.

One of the workers is a veteran power plant worker, a 59-year-old who volunteered to take on the assignment, according to Jiji Press, a Japanese news wire service, quoting a woman who claimed to be his daughter on Twitter. The job puts him at risk of exposure to dangerous amounts of radiation that could cause death or lead to a higher risk of cancer.

While thousands of people have been evacuated due to high risks of radiation near the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, a small group of 180 workers are risking their lives to help prevent a major meltdown.

The group of nearly 200 technicians, reportedly labeled the Fukushima 50 because they work in shifts of 50, are likely being exposed to massive amounts of radiation.

CNN reports:

    "According to the World Health Organisation, the average person is exposed to about 3.0 millisieverts (mSv) a year of radiation, from naturally-occurring, medical and other sources.

    But monitoring at the Fukushima Daiichi site has recorded radiation as high as 400 millisieverts an hour -- a level known to be a risk to human health."

The measure allows the workers to work longer at the plant.

Other details released by the Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) on the workers have been scant.

However, a Japanese official who spoke to American channel CBS, said that he made contact with a worker inside the control centre, who told him that he was not afraid to die, that that was his job.

But their sacrifices have not gone unnoticed.

Tributes are springing up online for this group that have gone beyond their call of duty. Facebook already hosts two pages set up for users to send comments and messages of thanks and gratitude to them.

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