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Japan’s Nuclear Heroes

Amidst the uncertainty and potential of a nuclear catastrophe the world has never seen on such a scale, there are selfless heroes working at great personal risk at this hour to contain the specter of unspeakable disaster. Someday the story will emerge of the heroic fight that occurred at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant.

It is a horrendous irony that the only people to have suffered the brunt of a nuclear attack during World War II, should be the ones having to cope with the nuclear dangers that have been unleashed in the wake of Friday’s 9.0 earthquake. And among the brave and suffering Japanese people right now are an estimated 50 safety workers toiling at great personal risk to contain and prevent a nuclear meltdown at Fukushima reactor #2.

The story is changing by the hour but what Monday night looked like the sure unfolding of a calamity has now stabilized somewhat as spiking radiation levels near the plant have come down considerably. These Japanese safety workers look for all the world like the first responders of 9/11. They are almost certainly sacrificing their lives, through either further explosions (and there have already been three at the plant including one at reactor #2) or acute radiation poisoning.

Their continued presence offers hope. The implications, if they should have to leave, are bleak. From the New York Times:

If all workers do in fact leave the plant, the nuclear fuel in all three reactors is likely to melt down, which would lead to wholesale releases of radioactive material — by far the largest accident of its kind since Chernobyl.

Tokyo, with a population near 13 million, and one of the largest cities on the planet Earth, is just 170 miles from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. Though radiation readings there have recently abated, the city government reported Monday that they had occasionally exceeded normal levels by 20 times.

For the Japanese people, many lives are depending on the success of those 50 brave souls working at great peril for the greater good at the Fukushima plant. Besides them, only the fickle direction of the wind may determine who eventually gets sick, who dies and who lives.

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