Last Defense at Troubled Reactors: 50 Japanese Workers


A small crew of technicians, braving radiation and fire, became the only people remaining at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station on Tuesday — and perhaps Japan’s 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.

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

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I was thinking about this earlier.

Why hasn’t our government offered to help evacuate people?

Why haven’t we deployed our top nuclear people to the region to assist?

Why aren’t we leading the charge in collecting lead and starting the process of building a sarcophagus in the event it is needed?

Why is our president absent, yet again?

I remember the Clinton “3 am call”, and it seems the phone is still ringing, ignored for fund raising, basketball brackets and other inane activities.

Those 50 are gone.

Japan ordered emergency workers to withdraw from its stricken nuclear power complex Wednesday amid a surge in radiation, temporarily suspending efforts to cool overheating reactors.

The workers, who were dousing the reactors with seawater in a frantic effort to stabilize their temperatures, had no choice except to withdraw because of the radiation risk.

Then Japan sought direct U.S. military help to end a crisis at a quake-damaged nuclear power plant in northeastern Japan, the chief government spokesman said on Wednesday.
I wonder what Obama will do?
Thurs is St. Patrick’s Day.
Fri he heads for Brazil.
Even his ”team” seems more concerned with basketball brackets and re-election than with – you know – the hard stuff of decision making.

Did I miss something in the initial reports? The backup power was a system of diesel generators? Currently, they were trying to use some kind of battery powered generator?

Do you mean to tell me that there was no way to fly in/drive in new diesel/gas powered generators? Can they not bring in some firetrucks and just run numerous firehoses to the pools? Do they not have coastguard style boats that can be brought in and used to constantly douse the scene?

Did Obama take Duke in his pool?

The most recent news is pretty bad.
But those 50 workers are heros no matter what ends up happening.
The radiation effects on the “Fukushima 50″workers, believed to be working in shifts, is still unknown.

Radiation levels have swung up and down for days now, with the current levels in Fukushima City believed to be 100 times above normal, at around 20 micro-sieverts per hour.

Supposedly that’s comparable to one chest X-ray every two hours.

Nausea, damage to the thyroid, and cancer are the varying stages of radiation poisoning.

Around 15 workers are believed to have been injured in the plant’s explosions, since Saturday.

The helicopter has been unable to drop any water on the reactor, owing to the high levels of radiation. Workers are now topping up the water from the ground.


Has anything specific been reported about radiation levels in the immediate vicinity of the reactors? The measurements widely reported all seem to have been collected at monitoring points around the facility’s boundaries. That’s disturbing, when you consider where workers would have to be to deal directly with the reactors and holding pools. It’s also disturbing that radiation levels were considered too high to continue water dumps from helicopters. Radioactive gases and particulates rising with heated air would likely be moving over ground-level monitoring points on the site’s outer perimeter.


The last thing I heard was from this morning our time that in the city closest to the plant the radiation is equal to getting a full chest X-ray….every two hours.

That seems like a lot.

A wife of one of the Fukushima 50 says her husband emailed her to simply take care of herself and not expect him back anytime soon.

The Fukushima 50 is really three shifts of 50 who take turns in hot zones.

Oh for heavens sakes…. the news media is such a hype machine, it’s driving me crazy. Sending these people over there to “cover” the story is, IMHO, the worst thing that could happen. They not only suck up limited gas supplies unnecessarily, and any resources for the Japanese in the way of water, food, etc., they can’t get a story straight to save their lives.

In this case, at least CBS took the time to verify news and got it closer to the truth.

Once the building stopped quaking, we got back down to work. There was a lot to talk about; Should our crews start moving south, should we leave the country, were there nuclear fallout shelters in Japan? And in the midst of all this, Marsha was also trying to figure out a way to get gasoline to a CBS crew that was about to run out of gas outside Tokyo and would soon be left stranded. For about half an hour, we frantically tried to figure out what was happening.

Then, all at once, the good news started coming in. New reports that the workers were back in the plant, and Lucy finally got through to the Tokyo Electric Power Company. They told her the workers were back on the job. They said the workers had, in fact, never left.

A company representative said that earlier in the morning, when radiation emissions went up around the plant, workers outside were ordered to come into a building inside the plant complex and halt their work. Then, once emissions dropped about an hour later, the workers returned to their posts.

Crisis averted, for now anyway. One thing is certain, it was one hell of an afternoon.

This is, in fact, what I’ve been hearing when you piece together the Hollywood fiction, portrayed as news on TV, with other hunted down resources. The radiation levels have been going up and down constantly, most of the time related to the water injection and levels to the various reactors. The latest I heard was another breathless reporter, standing in Japan on the scene (Shepard Smith), stating that all the water had evaporated out of another reactor containment vessel and “who knows” what would happen.

duh…. that’s been happening over and over as they attempt to flood the containers with seawater for cooling. They have limited power to work pumping systems, and and as the water levels go down due to failures, the radiation levels fluctuate up and down.

One might think Japan could do better if the Shepard Smiths, emotional Anderson Cooper and Soledad O’Brien weren’t around to unnecessarily drain the nation’s limited resources in the quest to “get the story out”. THe gas they use to power their news vehicles could be used to power alternative generators. The water they drink, and food they consume, could be sent to those who really need it in Northern Japan. If the news media were responsible, they’d limit their scene reporters to one crew per affiliate. Period.

Instead, they are just fanning the flames of fear with hyperbole so there’s a rush on anti-radiation OTC rememdies by the idiots living on the US west coast, absolutely sure that Armaggedon is floating their way in the form of a radiation cloud.

Dumb, dumb, and dumb. And not only that, infuriating and intellectually insulting.



I totally agree with your take on the media hype. I just turn them off. That said, this is a very serious scenario going on over there, and I think the workers who stayed at the plant may eventually get huge, maybe fatal, doses. They are true heroes in my book.

Remember the reports of a radiation “spike” of 3,000 mSv/Hr ( 3,000 mSv = 300 rem)? That’s a dose rate, and can be fatal if the workers were exposed for an hour. Hopefully they weren’t. Allow me to quote from my old Radiation Protection Manual:

Above 300 rems, all exposed individuals exhibit vomiting withing 2 hours. Severe leukopenia and loss of red blood cells occurs accompanied by hemorrhaging and infection. Loss of hair after 2 weeks occurs for doses over 300 rems. At 250 rems temporary sterility may last 1 to 2 years and at high end of range, permanent sterility may occur. At 200 rems no fatalities should occur. At 450 rems 50% fatality and at 600 rems 80% fatality is expected withing 3 to 6 weeks. Principle cause of death is hemorrhaging and infection. Recovery time for survivors usually 1 to 12 months depending on dose. Therapy consists primarily of blood transfusions and antibiotics.

The math-challenged idiots in the media don’t understand the difference between dose rates, and cumulative doses.

Mata, Drudge is also doing what you point out the TV media is doing.
Headlines there:

ABCNEWS pulling out news team from Japan…
White House Carney To Tapper: Ask YOUR OWN Reporters On Situation…

Radiation Found on NBCNEWS Crew, Lester Holt…

ESCAPE FROM JAPAN: Private Jets in Demand as Exodus Grows…

‘We’re Very Close Now to the Point of No Return’…

The Fukushima 50: Not afraid to die…


U.S. Officials Alarmed By Japanese Handling of Crisis…


JAPAN: No health risk 20km away from plant…

USA: Americans within 80km should evacuate…

UK to citizens: Leave Tokyo…

Sanjay Gupta, “My numbers have quadrupled since this morning.”

It really seems to matter who is handing out the information.
Pure news media have an interest in attracting viewers.
If they exaggerate now, people might forget before it matters, and they’ve buttered their bread.
Governments also have an agenda: orderliness in the face of a crisis.
I guess we just have to tack between the two and figure it out along with ”looking with our eyes,” as my dad used to tell me.

@John Cooper: That said, this is a very serious scenario going on over there, and I think the workers who stayed at the plant may eventually get huge, maybe fatal, doses. They are true heroes in my book.

Serious, I agree with, JC. Armaggedon every minute, nope. And I also agree these power plant workers are heroes. Then again, I put them in the same classification as I do our military, fire fighters and law enforcement, who can lose their life in a moment with their jobs to protect others. So my elevation of their status is not much different.

@Nan G: the headline, “Sanjay Gupta, “My numbers have quadrupled since this morning.”

Think he was talking about viewer audience? LOL Yes, you could do a post alone just on hyperbolic headlines these days.

This seems to me to be an authoritative site (at first glance): MIT NSE Nuclear Information Hub

That’s an interesting link I’ve added to my “source” archive bookmarks, JC. I notice that they, like myself, are constantly checking the TEPCO press release pages for details.