Skip to comments.Meet the Fukushima 50? No, you canít
Posted on 02/09/2013 5:32:11 AM PST by SeekAndFind
IT HAS taken the Japanese government more than 18 months since the earthquake and tsunami that hit Fukushima to pay tribute to a group of brave men, once known as the Fukushima 50, who risked their lives to prevent meltdowns at the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant from spiralling out of control.
But when the prime minister, Yoshihiko Noda, belatedly offered official thanks to them on October 7th something strange was afoot: six of the eight men he addressed had their backs to the television cameras, refused to be photographed and did not introduce themselves by name, not even to Mr Noda (see the image below).
The reason: officials from the government and from Tokyo Electric Power (Tepco) quietly admitted that the men wanted to keep their identities secret because they were scared of stigmatisation for being involved in the disaster, such as might lead to the bullying of their children and grandchildren. But Tepco is also muzzling them, presumably for fear that what they say will further discredit the now nationalised company. When I asked if I could at least hand my business card to them to see if they wanted to tell their side of the story, an irate Tepco spokesman answered bluntly: Impossible.
There are numerous ways that this incident reflects badly on both Tepcos and the governments handling of the situation. Firstly, there is the contrast between the frontline workers behaviour and the brazen hypocrisy of Tepcos management after the accident. I remember Tepcos then-chairman, Tsunehisa Katsumata (now thankfully retired), nonchalantly blaming everyone but himself when giving testimony to a Diet commission earlier this year.
Meanwhile, the men who worked loyally for him, risking their lives on behalf of his company, still hide their heads in shame.
The government, for its part, has done these men a huge disservice by not acting more quickly to differentiate their heroism from the craven self-interest of the companys bosses. In the eyes of the public there ought to be no confusion between the two. In Chile, it was easy to see how the country made heroes of the 33 trapped mine workers in 2010, while making villains of their bosses. Nothing like that has happened in Japan. As one government official noted, if this were America, the Fukushima 50 would have been invited to the Rose Garden for presidential recognition.
Yet even after Mr Nodas visit, the men do not get the recognition they deserve. Kyodo, a news agency, relegates any mention of them to the bottom of a boring story about decontamination.
An English-language paper, the Japan Times, today at least tells part of their harrowing story, though it doesnt mention the refusal of all but two of them to be identified. They did not depict themselves as heroes, as they recounted their experiences to Mr Noda. They mostly sounded plain scared. One said he thought it was all over after the tsunami of March 11th, 2011 knocked out all the power. Another told of how he sent his staff out into the dark, where they faced the danger of electrocution, to restore the power to a nuclear reactor on the verge of melting down. He was asked by his men whether he thought they would come back alive. They went on regardless.
But the headlines, ultimately, refer back to Mr Noda, not to the Fukushima 50. He gets more of the credit than they do, despite his wooden acknowledgement to the men, that Thanks to your dedication, we have managed to preserve Japan. This is one of the tragic flaws of modern Japan. The media attention is always focused on those in power, who typically do nothing to merit the recognition. The multitudes on the frontline, who put their heads down and do all the hard work are treated as faceless, nameless and ultimately forgotten.
WHAT HAPPENED TO THE FUKUSHIMA 50?
That was a disaster. I remember watching it play-by-play on FR and on the Japanese on-line news services - seeing the plant explosion, complete with shock wave, collapsed containment structures and reports of rising temeratures in the cores, the Japanese evacuating a 20 mile zone around the reactors...
... while nuke-apologists were telling us “This is nothing particularly abnormal, this is just what is supposed to happen...”
...when the prime minister, Yoshihiko Noda, belatedly offered official thanks to them on October 7th something strange was afoot: six of the eight men he addressed had their backs to the television cameras, refused to be photographed and did not introduce themselves by name, not even to Mr Noda... officials from the government and from Tokyo Electric Power (Tepco) quietly admitted that the men wanted to keep their identities secret because they were scared of stigmatisation for being involved in the disaster, such as might lead to the bullying of their children and grandchildren... When I asked if I could at least hand my business card to them to see if they wanted to tell their side of the story, an irate Tepco spokesman answered bluntly: "Impossible."
are these the volunteers who offered to go INTO the plant and try and contain the disaster?
I did not know some had survived.
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