Monday, March 21, 2011

The Bodhisattvas of Fukushima

The Fukushima Fifty are the brave individuals who have stayed behind at Japan's troubled Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant, where, working in shifts of fifty, they are desperately trying to contain the situation in an attempt to avert a national disaster. By continuously exposing themselves to high levels of radiation, they are knowingly jeopardizing their health and lives. The Fukushima Fifty may feel they are just doing their jobs, but to everyone else they are already heroes.

Japan has eighteen nuclear power plants, which together house a total of fifty four reactors. These plants generate about 29% of the country's electricity. The Fukushima Daiichi plant is situated on Japan’s east coast, near the town of Okuma. It is one of the twenty five biggest nuclear power stations worldwide and contains six reactors.


There was an explosion in Unit 1 on Saturday, March 12. The blast tore off the wall and roof of the outer containment vessel, but reportedly left the reactor intact. Four people were injured in the blast and locals were subsequently ordered to leave the area. The reactor has since been filled with seawater to cool it down.


Late Monday night, workers noted that the unit was unstable. They injected seawater to avoid further damage to the reactor, but it didn’t work: an explosion occurred the following morning at 6 a.m. The blast damaged the inner steel containment vessel and the cores of both reactors may have partially melted. It was then that Japanese officials acknowledged that radiation levels were becoming dangerous. The bulk of the plant’s staff were asked to leave, though a crew, now called the Fukushima Fifty, stayed back. Those workers were then asked to evacuate because of a spike in radiation levels. According to some sources, they have now returned.


Right after the explosion at Unit 1, a hydrogen explosion occurred at the third reactor, tearing away the outer frame of the building. Currently, the third unit is under inspection and not operational.


Reported to be offline at the time of the tsunami, Unit 4 caught fire on Tuesday morning. That occurred shortly after the explosion at Unit 2. The reactor erupted as a result of pressure build-up within the structure again on Wednesday, setting the outer walls ablaze. Fire and smoke can no longer be seen, but Japanese nuclear agency officials were unable to confirm if the fire has been put out. In order to contain the incident, they are spraying seawater and boric acid over the structure.


Nothing has occurred at the fifth and sixth reactors. Both units were not operating when the earthquake hit.


They are an anonymous band of lower and mid-level managers who are risking their lives at the very heart of Japan’s nuclear crisis.

But as the stricken reactors at the Fukushima nuclear plant appears to stabilize, plant owners are still remaining tight-lipped about the so-called 'Fukushima Fifty' - the heroes fighting to save Japan from nuclear catastrophe.

Fifty essential workers stayed behind to stop a catastrophic meltdown at the plant, as 750 of their colleagues were evacuated earlier this week when the over-heating seemed to be getting out of control.

Five are now believed to have died, fifteen are injured and others have said they know the radiation will kill them as they battle to cool overheating reactors and spent fuel rods.

Article source here & here
Image "Narita Shinshoji Temple in Japan" by Beata Bernina