Senior Skilled Veterans Still Requesting To Serve As Fukushima Crisis Continues

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Retired scientist Nobuhiro Shiotani is stubborn: He still hasn’t given up on his idea of helping the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant clean up its hazardous mess from the March meltdowns at several of its reactors.

The 72-year-old former scientist, co-founder of the Skilled Veterans Corps, was the subject of a Times article in July about hundreds of retirees who want to lend their expertise to the stricken facility’s cleanup effort from the March 11 earthquake and tsunami.

Their point is well-reasoned: Why subject young, mostly unskilled workers to the long-term perils of working around deadly radioactivity when there are older people with training who probably will be dead long before the adverse health effects — including cancer — come to pass?

But so far there has been little positive response to Shiotani’s offer to risk his life to assist his nation.

In the Times article in July, Shiotani described how Japan’s older generation feels a sense of guilt over the disaster  because scientists of their era helped pave the way for nuclear power in Japan and benefited from its use. Now they don’t want to leave the legacy of lingering radioactive poison of generations to come. Not on their watch.

But Tepco has thrown up roadblocks. First it expressed concern about insurance, so the group answered by registering as a nonprofit corporation, introducing a plan to cover members with compensation insurance and a healthcare plan.

In mid-July, not long after the Times report, Tepco officials allowed five Skilled Veterans Corps members — including Shiotani — on a tour of the cleanup efforts at the No. 4 reactor at the facility, 220 miles north of Tokyo.

“A full-faced mask narrowed visibility, and breathing through charcoal filters was tough. Voice communication was very limited; it was hot in sealed overalls,” he said. “I couldn’t move freely, couldn’t move my arms or look around. Even to screw or unscrew a bolt, even that sort of simple job, would be quite difficult under such circumstances.”

Still he was saddened by the sight of the legions of unskilled contractors lining up to do jobs that he believes might cause them grave health problems one day. They were precisely the people he wanted to protect.

Source: LA Times

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