If you’ve been keeping up with the news in Japan, you know how bleak the situation remains. It’s been nearly 3 months since the 8.9 magnitude earthquake shook the nation and spurred devastating tsunamis, leaving Japan with a humanitarian crisis, multi billion dollar clean up, and worse yet, a volatile nuclear plant.
Fast forward to today: thousands of engineers are working to stabilize the Fukushima nuclear power plant, putting their lives at risk and exposing themselves to dangerous radioactivity. At this point, there is no telling the extent of the damage, as radiation has been leaking into the environment for weeks.
Measuring this, though, is the least of their worries: stopping this leak is the only priority.
Although there is need for concentrated efforts, some in the community of engineers are raising concern, but in a shockingly inspirational way. Over 160 engineers 60-years-old and older have set up a “Skilled Veterans Corp” to help restore the reactors and to get the young out of harm’s way.
Yasuteru Yamada, a 72-year-old retired engineer, argues that “”We shouldn’t leave the work only to young engineers.”
Partly because of their expertise, partly because of health concerns of young people who will want to have children in the future, and partly because of the fear among the people, these engineers are looking to take on the risky business of achieving “cold shutdown” of the plant. And many of the workers are prepared to face the possible consequences.
Masahiro Ueda, a 69-year-old plant worker with decades of experience, put it simply: “I’m old. I don’t care when I die… I want to devote the rest of my career to the restoration (of the Fukushima Daiichi plant). Someone should take action.”
Although the Tokyo Electric Power Company has not formally commented on the proposal, there is a general feeling of inspiration in the government. Goshi Hosono, the special adviser to Prime Minister Naoto Kan, stated that “We are very thankful and want to accept their feeling of devoted action.”
He added, however, that “our principle is that we should stick to procedures that will not require such a ‘suicide corps’.”
Without a doubt, these engineers are setting an inspirational example for future generations. Considering the risks they are willing to face, largely because they do not wish to see the next generation of skilled engineers unable to have children or be plagued with cancer, we should all take a moment to reflect on their sacrifice.
Special thanks goes to David Goldberg for contributing the idea. We also thank Yahoo! News for reporting on the event.