The Fukushima Fifty

“But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” – Romans 5:8

On 26 April 1986 reactor number four at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant in the Ukraine exploded. About 50 people died in the explosion, immediate aftermath, and clean up efforts. It is estimated that just under 400,000 people had to be resettled because of the massive fallout from the plant.

The radiation output was so high, that workers wearing heavy protective suits were forced to work in shifts under a minute in duration to limit exposure. It was nigh-on a suicide mission, in an effort to save lives of people downwind and cap the reactor with enough sand and concrete to stop the radiation leak.

This week in Fukushima, Japan, workers have been struggling to control a downward spiral in several reactors. They have apparently lost the ability to cool the reactors, allowing the fuel rods to heat up and eventually “melt down”. While the Japanese government has been less than completely forthcoming in details (which is somewhat understandable, given the need to avoid public panic that will make things worse) it doesn’t look good. Will we see an explosion on the level of Chernobyl? I doubt it, but the reactors may be beyond recovery, and we could end up with nothing left but sand and concrete and hundreds of years of decay before we can do anything else.

Stories on the internet are even starting to mention the dreaded “China Syndrome” (or the more droll “core on the floor”) in which it is theorized that the nuclear core could melt-down and go white-hot, break the containment unit’s floor, burn into the crust of the earth, and hit the ground water table causing a massive steam explosion (a radioactive one at that). Could it happen? Who knows. If it didn’t happen at Chernobyl, one hopes it won’t happen anywhere. But the guys who theorize about this type of stuff ain’t dummies.

Amidst the chaos and uncertainty, we also hear of the “Fukushima Fifty” (story here). The actual number is in question, but the gist is that a contingent of plant workers have decided to stay to see this thing through, hoping against hope that they can stop a nuclear melt-down. There is obviously little communication between the Fuku50 and the outside (at least the reporters), but apparently one Japanese official has been in contact and relays that they “are not afraid to die, this is their job.”

There are a lot of scenarios that could play out here, and we are certainly hoping and praying for the best. And still, we know there could also be grim realities for these brave souls; even if they succeed in averting disaster for their countrymen.

“Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13)

God speed, men.


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