Friday, March 18, 2011

Worker at Japanese nuclear plant: We’re putting our lives on the line

A female worker at the Tokyo Electric Power Co (Tepco) plant wrote a blog post about the battle to keep the reactors from overheating, saying the brave workers at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power plant were risking their lives to keep the situation under control.

Michiko Otsuki removed the post on Thursday, writing that it was being used in a way she hadn't intended. But the Singaporean site the Straits Times translated the entire statement and posted it online.  The post, which Otsuki uploaded to the social networking site Mixi, has already been quoted by the Guardian, the AFP, and other international news outlets.

"In the midst of the tsunami alarm (last Friday), at 3am in the night when we couldn't even see where we going, we carried on working to restore the reactors from where we were, right by the sea, with the realisation that this could be certain death," she wrote on Tuesday. "The machine that cools the reactor is just by the ocean, and it was wrecked by the tsunami. Everyone worked desperately to try and restore it. Fighting fatigue and empty stomachs, we dragged ourselves back to work. There are many who haven't gotten in touch with their family members, but are facing the present situation and working hard."

She apologized to residents who lived near the reactors, but also noted that workers at the facility were risking their lives to place the crisis under control. "Watching my co-workers putting their lives on the line without a second thought in this situation, I'm proud to be a member of Tepco, and a member of the team behind Fukushima No. 2 reactor," she wrote.

The AP writes that a history of cover-ups and scandals in the country's nuclear energy industry has left the Japanese deeply suspicious of the plants. One worker was told to alter footage sent to regulators so they would not see radioactive steam leaking from the plant. He went public in 2000 and three Tepco execs lost their jobs.

Otsuki was one of 800 workers evacuated from the plant on Monday. Tepco said it expects workers to re-connect cables that will make the plant's cooling system work again today, Bloomberg reports. Tepco said that about 20 people had volunteered to help the skeleton team of workers at the plant, as helicopters began to dump massive amounts of water from the sky to try to cool down the reactors. A core team of workers has been rotating in and out in hopes of reducing their radiation exposure.

"I don't know any other way to say it, but this is like suicide fighters in a war," Keiichi Nakagawa, associate professor of the Department of Radiology at University of Tokyo Hospital told The Daily Mail.

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