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March 15, 2011

The Faceless 50

Heroism. (NYTimes link, but it's worth it)

A small crew of technicians, braving radiation and fire, became the only people remaining at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station on Tuesday ó and perhaps Japanís last chance of preventing a broader nuclear catastrophe.

They crawl through labyrinths of equipment in utter darkness pierced only by their flashlights, listening for periodic explosions as hydrogen gas escaping from crippled reactors ignites on contact with air.

They breathe through uncomfortable respirators or carry heavy oxygen tanks on their backs. They wear white, full-body jumpsuits with snug-fitting hoods that provide scant protection from the invisible radiation sleeting through their bodies.

They are the faceless 50, the unnamed operators who stayed behind. They have volunteered, or been assigned, to pump seawater on dangerously exposed nuclear fuel, already thought to be partly melting and spewing radioactive material, to prevent full meltdowns that could throw thousands of tons of radioactive dust high into the air and imperil millions of their compatriots.

If you are the praying type, I encourage you to offer up a few words for these brave workers.

(h/t: Andy Levy)

UPDATE [DrewM.]: Not to take away from the heroic actions of those 50 over the last few days, especially the last 24 hours when they were the only ones there but....the Japanese Government just announced they are pulling the 50 out because the radiation levels are too high.

There's simply too much we don't know/understand but honestly, this can't be a good sign.

The Japanese government is now saying they may/probably will* need the help of the US military to fight the fires.

*I've seen both terms used. Not sure if it's a translation issue or what. Either way...not good.

UPDATE 2: Not so fast? NYT Reporter in Japan:

Contrary to some reports, a core group of workers remain at the Fukushima Daiichi plant. It is not abandoned.

CNN just ran the press conference of the Cabinet Secretary and the translator said they were being withdrawn. Could be a translation problem. Again, there's just a lot of contradictory information out there.

Either way...Slu's suggestion of prayers is still applicable.

UPDATE 3: That NY Times Reporter is the only one who is saying that workers are still on site. This AP story quotes Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano as saying, ""So the workers cannot carry out even minimal work at the plant now," Edano said. "Because of the radiation risk, we are on standby."'

UPDATE 4: Okay, there seems to have been some confusion about whether the plant was "abandoned" or work was "suspended". Here's what the situation seems to be.

Fukushima plant was never abandoned. Workers outside were told to take cover indoors, but never left - TEPCO spox Tanaka Ai.

Between the various groups involved (the government, the utility, news organizations), translations and the conditions they are working under, there's a lot of imprecise information.

About the conditions...there are a number of reports of strong quakes today. Which is just, you know, what they need.


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posted by Slublog at 10:26 PM

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