Nuclear Plant Workers Expect To Die - Spokane, North Idaho News & Weather KHQ.com

Nuclear Plant Workers Expect To Die

TOKYO — The workers at Japan's stricken nuclear power plant — known as the Fukushima 50 — expect some of them will die within weeks or months, the mother of one has reportedly said.

Tokyo Electric Power Co., the power company that runs the plant, said Friday that leaking radiation had seeped into groundwater beneath the site.

The leak is an indicator of how far TEPCO is from stabilizing the dangerously overheating reactors after cooling systems were knocked out in the March 11 quake and tsunami.

Earlier this week, a Japanese minister conceded there was no end in sight to the crisis, although some of the world's largest cement pumps are being sent to Japan, initially to pump water but then to possibly entomb the site as was done in Chernobyl.

The Fukushima 50, who actually are a group of about 300 people who have been working in shifts of 50, have become heroes in Japan and are known as atomic "samurai."

Speaking to Fox News by phone via an interpreter, the mother of a 32-year-old worker said her son had told her they must have been exposed to lethal doses of radiation.

"My son and his colleagues have discussed it at length and they have committed themselves to die if necessary to save the nation," she said. Fox News said she was tearful as she spoke.

"He told me they have accepted they will all probably die from radiation sickness in the short term or cancer in the long-term," she added.

"They have concluded between themselves that it is inevitable some of them may die within weeks or months. They know it is impossible for them not to have been exposed to lethal doses of radiation," she said.

The woman, who Fox News said spoke on condition of anonymity because the workers had been asked to not speak to the media, added that her son was too scared to sleep on the floor and so had been doing so on a desk.

"But they say high radioactivity is everywhere and I think this will not save him," she said.

Contamination has affected work at the plant, where radioactive water has been pooling, often thwarting the work of powering up the complex's cooling systems.

Sharing radiation meters
Despite the leaks, TEPCO hasn't had enough dosimeters to provide one for each employee since many were destroyed in the earthquake. Under normal circumstances, the gauges, which measure radiation, would be worn at all times.

Officials said Friday that more meters had arrived and there were now enough for everyone.

"We must ensure safety and health of the workers, but we also face a pressing need to get the work done as quickly as possible," said nuclear safety agency spokesman Hidehiko Nishiyama. Until now, sharing meters "has been an unavoidable choice."

TEPCO has repeatedly relaxed safety standards during the crisis in order to prevent frequent violations. That is not uncommon during emergencies.

TEPCO spokesman Naoyuki Matsumo also said iodine-131, a radioactive substance that decays quickly, was found nearly 50 feet below one of the reactors.

The groundwater contamination was found in concentrations 10,000 times higher than the government standard for the plant.

Seiki Kawagoe, an environmental science professor at Tohoku University, said Friday the radioactive substances were unlikely to affect drinking water, noting that radiation tends to dissipate quickly in the ground, as it does in the ocean.

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