USA | Fukushima heroes: Not afraid to die

Posted on March 15, 2011

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USA | CBS NEWS | March 15, 2011 6:56 PM

Since the disaster struck in Japan, about 800 workers have been evacuated from the damaged nuclear complex in Fukushima. The radiation danger is that great.

 

However, CBS News correspondent Jim Axelrod reports that a handful have stayed on the job, risking their lives, to try to save the lives of countless people they don’t even know. The exact number of workers is unclear and has been reported to be anywhere from 50 to 180.

 

Although communication with the workers inside the nuclear plant is nearly impossible, a CBS News consultant spoke to a Japanese official who made contact with one of the workers inside the control center.

 

The official said that his friend told him that he was not afraid to die, that that was his job.

 

Cham Dallas, who led teams responding to the Chernobyl disaster, said that kind of response is not out of the normal for some workers in the nuclear energy sector.

 

“(In) my experience of people in the action area of nuclear power is much like that,” Dallas said.

 

Special report: Disaster in Japan
Nuclear meltdowns explained
How Fukushima explosions differ from Chernobyl

 

The workers are doing so amid decreasing but still dangerously high levels of radiation. On Wednesday, Japanese officials raised the legal limit on radiation for the workers from 100 millisieverts to 250.

 

“The longer they stay the more dangerous it becomes for them,” said expert Margaret Harding. “I think it is a testament to their guts for them to say, ‘We’ll stay and if that means we go, we go.'”

 

If the contamination threat isn’t contained in a few weeks, finding enough workers willing to face the risks could become a crucial challenge.

 

Dallas said he expects that in that scenario, the Japanese energy authorities may have to find volunteers willing to undergo similar dangers, which will be hard to do, but not impossible.

 

Keep in mind they’d be volunteering to head into a place so potentially dangerous, that anyone within 20 miles of it was just asked to evacuate.

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