Saturday, April 2, 2011

Japan Workers of the Nuclear Power Plant Expect to Die

The mother of one of the atomic "samurai" working to bring Japan's stricken nuclear plant under control has said her son and his colleagues expect to die as a result of their efforts.

Meanwhile, there are reports that additional workers are being offered big money to dash into the radiation-drenched heart of the Fukushima Daiichi plant, perform a job, then withdraw.

In a phone interview with Fox News, the tearful 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," the woman added.

"They know it is impossible for them not to have been exposed to lethal doses of radiation."
The woman did not give her name, because she said the workers had been asked by management not to speak publicly about their ordeal, in order to minimize panic.

There are also indications that the workers aren't being provided with some crucial safety equipment. Japan's interior minister said that not all of the workers were given lead sheeting to protect themselves from the floor--which may be contaminated by radiation--while sleeping.

"My son has been sleeping on a desk because he is afraid to lie on the floor. But they say high radioactivity is everywhere and I think this will not save him," said the mother.

In another bleak sign, there are reports of additional workers being offered up to $5,000 a day to act as "jumpers"--so called because they "jump" into highly radioactive areas to quickly perform a task before fleeing with minimal exposure. But even at those rates, many candidates are turning the work down, Reuters reports.

"My company offered me 200,000 yen ($2,500) per day," one subcontractor in his 30s told a reporter."Ordinarily I'd consider that a dream job, but my wife was in tears and stopped me, so I declined."

And Ryuta Fujita, 27, told the Tokyo Shimbun newspaper he was offered $5,000 to go into Reactor 2, but likewise declined.

"I hear that guys older than 50 are being hired at high pay," Fujita said. "But I'm still young, and radiation scares me. I don't want to work in a nuclear plant again."

Last week two workers in Reactor 3 were taken to hospital after their feet were exposed to 170-180 millisieverts of radiation. The average dose for a worker at a nuclear plant is 50 millisieverts over 5 years.

Because so few workers want to venture into the plant, it's proving hard for TEPCO, that company that runs it, to assess whether efforts to cool the fuel rods are working, or even to fully diagnose the problems.

Robots are usually used for this type of work, but Fukushima's interior is so filled with debris that it's difficult for robots to operate there.

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