Thursday, March 24, 2011

Duty, Honor, Country: Fukushima grunts

The grunts at Fukushima are not doing it for money. No "Yeah, I calculated the NPV, and, you know, it's just not worth it for me. I really believe in your project, though. And, I share your passion. Good luck."

WSJ: ... In normal times, thousands of workers perform routine tasks of reactor maintenance at the Fukushima Daiichi complex. Now, many of them are being called to volunteer to work, at standard pay, at the troubled plant.

"I'm scared," says Kenji Tada, 29 years old, a worker at protective-coating specialist Tokai Toso Co. "But someone has to go."

... "There isn't a single person who's been doing this because of money,'' says Tadashi Ikeda, senior managing director of Tokai Toso. Plenty of workers are locals who have been forced out of their homes by the radiation levels and are eager to help get things back to normal, he adds.

Mr. Tada says he typically earns about ¥200,000 ($2,470) a month, well below Japan's average monthly salary of ¥291,000. "It can't be helped," he says, adding his mother doesn't want him to go. "Someone has to do it."

... Radiation managers at Tepco take readings at the places where they want to send each day's workers. Shifting winds and leaks from unstable reactors have meant radiation levels in the complex have veered wildly in the space of hours, and hot spots move from one area to another.

Workers wear protective gear and a mask and must have had training in dealing with radioactive environments. Each person also wears two badges, in chest pockets under gear, to track radiation exposure on each visit. Each worker is limited to a total of 250,000 microsieverts for the duration of the crisis, a limit that was lifted last week from 100,000 microsieverts—the borderline for what is considered "low-dose" exposure.

Mr. Tada says colleagues already at the site have told him they were exposed to around 100 microsieverts of radiation after five hours of work, an amount equivalent to one chest X-ray. That is less than the 190 microsieverts Mr. Tada says he logged in four hours of work one recent day, before the crisis.

Not everyone is so sanguine. At the Saitama Super Arena, a stadium north of Tokyo that has been converted into a refugee shelter for people forced from towns near the Fukushima plant, Mitsuyoshi Oigawa says his son was among those asked to return.

Mr. Oigawa says the call came six days after the quake struck and that his son will likely work at the plant for two or three days. Mr. Oigawa says he has tried without success to call his son's cellphone since then. He worries that radiation exposure could sicken his son.

"There's no way to express what I'd do for him," says Mr. Oigawa, 70. "I'd go in his place if I could."

In an evacuee camp in the city of Tamura, about 20 miles west of the Fukushima Daiichi complex, another worker for a nuclear-equipment maker says he got his call to report for duty earlier this week. The man says he thinks he will be carrying and laying pipes that will bring water to reactor No. 3.

The high-school graduate, whose salary is similar to Mr. Tada's, says he was told he could refuse the call. But he says he felt duty-bound to accept, musing that he would be in the position of sacrificing himself for the good of others, as he says Japanese pilots did in World War II suicide missions. "If the call comes, there's only one thing I can say: 'Yes, I'll go.' I thought of the kamikaze—sacrificing yourself for someone else," he says. "My heart is calm."

Are these values unique to the Japanese? No, many Americans would do the same.

Douglas MacArthur (1962, West Point): ... Duty, Honor, Country: Those three hallowed words reverently dictate what you ought to be, what you can be, what you will be. They are your rallying points: to build courage when courage seems to fail; to regain faith when there seems to be little cause for faith; to create hope when hope becomes forlorn.

Unhappily, I possess neither that eloquence of diction, that poetry of imagination, nor that brilliance of metaphor to tell you all that they mean.

The unbelievers will say they are but words, but a slogan, but a flamboyant phrase. Every pedant, every demagogue, every cynic, every hypocrite, every troublemaker, and I am sorry to say, some others of an entirely different character, will try to downgrade them even to the extent of mockery and ridicule.


The soldier, above all other men, is required to practice the greatest act of religious training -- sacrifice.

In battle and in the face of danger and death, he discloses those divine attributes which his Maker gave when he created man in his own image. No physical courage and no brute instinct can take the place of the Divine help which alone can sustain him.

However horrible the incidents of war may be, the soldier who is called upon to offer and to give his life for his country is the noblest development of mankind.


The shadows are lengthening for me. The twilight is here. My days of old have vanished, tone and tint. They have gone glimmering through the dreams of things that were. Their memory is one of wondrous beauty, watered by tears, and coaxed and caressed by the smiles of yesterday. I listen vainly, but with thirsty ears, for the witching melody of faint bugles blowing reveille, of far drums beating the long roll. In my dreams I hear again the crash of guns, the rattle of musketry, the strange, mournful mutter of the battlefield.

But in the evening of my memory, always I come back to West Point.

Always there echoes and re-echoes: Duty, Honor, Country.

Today marks my final roll call with you, but I want you to know that when I cross the river my last conscious thoughts will be of The Corps, and The Corps, and The Corps.


KenC said...

That’s odd. I just got finished reading that article in the WSJ. I have been thinking about those plant workers since this event began and what they are doing in the face of great danger under extremely difficult circumstances, working with flashlights and other rudimentary tools. I went on a hike recently with a good friend and we were talking about the workers. Some are indeed committing a form of seppuku, or as the worker refers becoming kamikaze. I view that as admirable in this day of chicken little running for cover, being only concerned with ones self interest, and screaming that the sky is falling. My gawd--that radiation is going to get me--thousands of miles away!

When this disaster is over (I mean the whole thing--not just the nuclear plant incident) those workers will go down as true heroes and should be remembered as such. It will make for a good book and video.

Taufaahau_Tupou_IV said...

MacArthur sounds like he was probably a pedophile.

anon said...

The western media with their warmongering about Libya, and their fearmongering about Japan, have shown themselves to be vile scum.

Taufaahau_Tupou_IV said...

They're salesmen. They sell reading the print news, listening to the radio news, watching the tv news. I wonder if their editors tell them, "Hype it up guys. Not yet hyper enough." Probably not much need for that though. Media people want to believe they're important, but at the same time have never learned that words however well dramatized are impotent in themselves.

DK said...

There was no shortage of volunteers in Chernobyl. In fact, only a small propоrtion of those wanting were allowed to work there.

Taufaahau_Tupou_IV said...

The Milton Friedman chimos will respond, "But they didn't volunteer voluntarily" OR "They were brainwashed" OR "They didn't know the risk" OR "For them, Hero of the Soviet Union was like canonization."

DK said...

Truth be told, there was once clear incentive: those working in Chernobyl were paid super-well by Soviet standards. And yes, not everyone understood the risks (it was only at later stages when authorities made sensible decision to not allow young childless men to work at the site). But the dominant motivation was still plain and pure patriotism.

Taufaahau_Tupou_IV said...

That's strange considering Chernobyl is in the Ukraine.

DK said...

Why is it strange? In 1986 an overwhelming majority in the USSR felt like citizens of one country united by a common future and interests. Would you find it strange if Texans display patriotic feelings over something that's happening in Georgia?

Taufaahau_Tupou_IV said...

Texan isn't a national group. Georgian is, but not in the sense of Georgia where Jimmy Carter is from. Don't be an idiot.

DK said...

Ukraine status in 1986 was the same as Texas status today, you imbecile.

Taufaahau_Tupou_IV said...

No it wasn't. Asking you not to be an idiot is pointless. You are an idiot.

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