the cost of nuclear power

Dead men walking.

They’re known as the “Fukushima 50,” and they’re Japan’s only hope of avoiding a Chernobyl-like catastrophe.

The men, unidentified technicians and emergency workers, are desperately battling to save potentially millions of their countrymen — knowing that even if they succeed, they’ll likely die from lethal doses of radiation.

Chernobyl workers who stayed at their stations when the Ukrainian reactor exploded in 1986 died within three months of exposure.

Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan virtually ordered the crews on the suicide mission.

“You are the only ones who can resolve a crisis,” he said. “Retreat is unthinkable.”

The modern-day Samurai — who have attained mythic status among their countrymen — are “not afraid to die,” a source close to them told CBS.

The selfless workers total about 180. But no human can stay inside the devastated Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant for more than 15 minutes at a time, so they cycle in and out in teams of 50.

They’re using manual pumps to force seawater onto the overheated reactors, because the plant’s electrically powered cooling system collapsed after last Friday’s earthquake and tsunami. Dressed in hazmat suits and working with flashlights, they’re also desperately unclogging vents and repairing pipes.

Unless the nuclear fuel is immersed in water, it overheats, leading to a calamitous meltdown that releases lethal radiation into the air.

The workers, including cops, firefighters and soldiers, face their greatest test at Reactor No. 4, where the cooling pools are believed to have run completely dry.

US Nuclear Regulatory Commission Chairman Gregory Jaczko, speaking in Washington, said it appears “there has been a hydrogen explosion in this unit due to an uncovering of fuel in the spent-fuel pool.”

More ominously, he added, “We believe the secondary containment has been destroyed” — which strongly suggests that radiation is spewing into the air.

Inside the plant, it may already be too late. “We believe that radiation levels are extremely high, which could possibly impact the ability to take corrective measures,” Jaczko said.

Although the workers are dressed head-to-foot in protective body suits, the gear provides little protection against the radiation, which is at four times the level that causes cancer.

“I don’t know any other way to say it, but this is like suicide fighters in a war,” said Keiichi Nakagawa, a professor at the Tokyo University Department of Radiology.   full article

is it worth it?  i think not.


“There is no country in the world that has figured out what to do with radioactive nuclear waste.”
Susan Glickman

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