Radioactive Love

Not even the world’s best scriptwriter could have imagined the events that brought modern, affluent Japan to its knees. Tremors after tremors were not enough to prepare its people for the Big One – a magnitude 9 quake- so big and powerful that it even knocked Mother Earth off its axis.

We have much to learn from Japan. The discipline, serenity, and optimism of its people – the sincerity, compassion, and quick action of its government, and the disaster preparedness of all that led to lives saved and buildings still standing.

In the midst of all the stories, my heart goes out to the heroic 50 workers who were left behind to secure a leaky and damaged nuclear plant.

A New York Times article written by Keith Bradsher and Hiroko Tabuchi chronicles the heroism of these 50 workers:

“A small crew of technicians, braving radiation and fire, became the only people remaining at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station on Tuesday — and perhaps Japan’s last chance of preventing a broad nuclear catastrophe.”

“They crawl through labyrinths of equipment in utter darkness pierced only by their flashlights, listening for periodic explosions as hydrogen gas escaping from crippled reactors ignites on contact with air.”

“They breathe through uncomfortable respirators or carry heavy oxygen tanks on their backs. They wear white, full-body jumpsuits with snug-fitting hoods that provide scant protection from the invisible radiation sleeting through their bodies.”

“They are the faceless 50, the unnamed operators who stayed behind. They have volunteered, or been assigned, to pump seawater on dangerously exposed nuclear fuel, already thought to be partly melting and spewing radioactive material, to prevent full meltdowns that could throw thousands of tons of radioactive dust high into the air and imperil millions of their compatriots.”

As I write this, I received a tweet saying that the 50 workers have been pulled out of the plant. If true, then I hope that they are spared the health risks that technicians of the doomed Chernobyl nuclear facility had experienced.

We rely on the government of Japan and the power company that employs the 50 heroes to do what is right by these workers, and their families. Perhaps their identities shall never be known, but to them we say thank you, for manning your stations, for trying to keep your country and its people safe at the risk of your own lives.

Out of the debris and matchstick houses in Sendai, Japan, these 50 unknown workers stand tall and proud, as shining examples of true courage and service beyond the bounds of duty.

God bless your brave souls.

Author: Susan Ople

Susan "Toots" Ople is the President of the Blas F. Ople Policy and Training Institute. She's an OFW and labor advocate based in the Philippines.

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