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Japanese earthquake - Elderly volunteers seek to stabilize nuclear plant

Steel News - Published on Thu, 26 May 2011

It is reported that more than 160 elderly people have volunteered to brave high radioactivity and help stabilize the Fukushima No 1 nuclear power plant in response to a call from a former engineer in an effort a government official calls a suicide corps.

Mr Yasuteru Yamada, who previously worked for Sumitomo Metal Industries Limited, said that people aged 60 or older must undertake the mission because their age means the adverse impact from radioactivity will be minimal.

He added that \"Progress will be limited as long as workers have to change every few minutes, and a coordinated response cannot be expected even if robots are deployed. We have to come to the forefront because we accumulated technology and capability on the job and because we will be subject to small effects of radioactivity due to our age.\"

It is not clear whether Mr Yamada and his comrades will be allowed to work toward their cause.

Mr Goshi Hosono, special adviser to Prime Minister Mr Naoto Kan on the nuclear crisis, said that there is not an immediate need for elderly volunteers, even though Mr Yamada\'s call is appreciated. He added that \"We are gradually putting in place a work process in which high levels of radioactivity are not accumulated in a single worker. The basic rule is to establish a work process that does not require such a suicide corps.\"

At the Fukushima No 1 nuclear power plant, 1,148 people were working as of May 22nd 2011 with a goal of bringing crippled reactors to cold shutdown within eight months. But it is becoming increasingly difficult to secure workers as the nuclear crisis has dragged on, according to the companies that dispatch workers to the Fukushima plant.

Some workers sent to the plant immediately after the March 11th 2011 earthquake and tsunami have refused to return, citing poor working conditions.

Mr Yamada, who has experience in waste disposal and plant construction, began soliciting volunteers in early April by sending e mails and letters to his acquaintances. Prospective workers must be 60 or older and have the will and physical strength to work in the nuclear power plant.

As the call for action spread, 165 people said they are willing to take part in his Skilled Veterans Corps as of May 23rd 2011.

Mr Yamada disputes the assertion that he is organizing a suicide corps, saying efforts will be made to keep workers\' exposure to radioactivity to a minimum.

Mr Yamada has contacted Diet members and Tokyo Electric Power Co, the plant\'s operator. He plans to press the government and TEPCO into action after enlisting more elderly people. The plant needs systems for cooling reactors and spent fuel storage pools on a permanent basis. The task will involve work in places contaminated with high levels of radioactivity.

Mr Yamada has been receiving cancer treatments since a malignant tumor was found four years ago. He is in good physical health, but the risk for recurrence remains. He said that \"I want to do my part so that a negative legacy will not be left for future generations.\"

Mr Hosono, a Democratic Party of Japan lawmaker, said he takes note of Yamada\'s offer, which he described as a devoted action. He also said he has asked TEPCO if there is an opportunity for elderly people to demonstrate their abilities. But he said it will be difficult unless they have experience in working in nuclear power plants.

(Sourced from www.asahi.com)

Posted By : admin on Thu, 26 May 2011
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