Tuesday, March 05, 2013

'I am one of the Fukushima fifty': One of the men who risked their lives to prevent a catastrophe shares his story

It was, recalls Atsufumi Yoshizawa, a suicide mission: volunteering to return to a dangerously radioactive nuclear power plant on the verge of tipping out of control.
As he said goodbye to his colleagues they saluted him, like soldiers in battle. The wartime analogies were hard to avoid: in the international media he was a kamikaze, a samurai or simply one of the heroic Fukushima 50. The descriptions still embarrass him. “I’m not a hero,” he says. “I was just trying to do my job.”
A stoic, soft-spoken man dressed in the blue utility suit of his embattled employer Tokyo Electric Power Co., (Tepco) Mr Yoshizawa still finds it hard to dredge up memories of fighting to stop catastrophe at the Fukushima Daiichi plant. Two years later, debate still rages about responsibility for the planet’s worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl, and its impact. Fish caught near the plant this month contained over 5,000 times safe radiation limits, according to state broadcaster NHK.
A report this week by the World Health Organisation says female infants affected by the worst of the fallout have a 70 per cent higher risk of developing thyroid cancer over their lifetimes, but concluded that overall risks for the rest of the population are “low”. Over 160,000 people have been displaced from their homes near the plant, perhaps permanently, and are fighting for proper compensation. Stress, divorce and suicides and plague the evacuees. Read More