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Emails From Fukushima Reveal Trauma of Japan's Nuclear Workers

Mar 31, 2011 – 9:50 AM
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Lauren Frayer

Lauren Frayer Contributor

Emails and blogs written by Japan's faceless heroes -- the nuclear workers toiling anonymously inside the stricken Fukushima plant -- reveal desperation and doubts among workers who fear they may be sacrificing themselves to prevent radiation from spreading to their countrymen.

The Japanese government has tried to keep the identities and details of Fukushima's workers under wraps, and no media have ventured close to the radioactive facility 150 miles north of Tokyo. But some email messages have emerged, reported by several media outlets, that offer a rare glimpse inside the secretive recovery effort at the heart of Japan's worst crisis since World War II. They also show gripping emotion by workers forced to buckle down and do a dangerous, life-threatening job.

"I just wanted people to understand that there are many people fighting under harsh circumstances in the nuclear plants. That is all I want," one Fukushima worker wrote. "Crying is useless. If we're in hell now all we can do is to crawl up towards heaven."

About 400 TEPCO workers are living within about half a mile of the stricken Fukushima plant, working 12-hour rotating shifts. They eat only two meals a day: crackers and vegetable juice for breakfast, and instant rice for dinner. It's too difficult to deliver food to the site at midday, so they go without lunch. The workers sleep in conference rooms, corridors and stairwells, with one blanket each and a lead mat to try to prevent radiation exposure. The level of contamination they've been exposed to is still unknown.

Another Tokyo Electric Power Co. employee in the capital, writing to a Fukushima worker, acknowledged to his colleague that "what I can do for you is limited. But when the time comes, we will take our turn to protect you all. Without fail."

"Everyone here pays respect and has lowered their head to pray for those who are facing the brunt of it and fighting on the front lines surrounded by enemies," the Tokyo employee wrote. "Although I am not in a position to say such a thing, I beg you to hang in there."

Tsunami Relief: Network for Good

A third message appears to be from a Fukushima supervisor writing to several TEPCO employees, and begins in a professional manner, thanking employees for their hard work and outlining the status of recovery operations at certain plants. But then the writer breaks down.

"My parents were washed away by the tsunami and I still don't know where they are," the supervisor wrote. "I'm engaged in extremely tough work under this kind of mental condition. ... I can't take this any more!"

"Everyone is away from their hometown and does not know when they can return. We don't know who to turn to and direct our concern and anger," he wrote. "This is the current reality."

Filed under: World, Japan Disaster
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