Open

Coming up

Don't miss

Replay


LATEST SHOWS

REPORTERS

Halal tourism on the rise

Read more

FOCUS

Many Turks angry over Syrian refugee situation

Read more

ENCORE!

Shakespeare’s 450th Birthday : The Best of the Bard

Read more

BUSINESS DAILY

The Tour de France, a PR machine

Read more

IN THE PAPERS

Coverage of the third plane crash in one week - from France, Algeria and Burkina Faso

Read more

IN THE PAPERS

Coverage of the plane crash that took 116 lives - almost half of them French

Read more

DEBATE

Gaza: A Truce At All Costs?

Read more

AFRICA NEWS

Central African Republic: Brazzaville ceasefire talks deliver fragile deal

Read more

FOCUS

Sluggish tourist season in Crimea

Read more

  • Live: ‘No survivors’ from Algerian plane crash, says Hollande

    Read more

  • French families grieve for Algerian plane crash victims

    Read more

  • French lawyer files complaint against Israel at ICC

    Read more

  • Protest against Gaza offensive turns deadly in West Bank

    Read more

  • LA Times wipes France off the map in air crash infographic

    Read more

  • Tour de France fans bring the ambience to the Pyrenees

    Read more

  • Ukraine names acting PM after Yatseniuk's shock resignation

    Read more

  • Deadly strike on UN shelter in Gaza Strip

    Read more

  • Wreckage of Algeria plane found in Mali

    Read more

  • BNP to pay $80 million for defrauding Dept of Agriculture

    Read more

  • Pope meets Christian woman sentenced to death in Sudan

    Read more

  • Italy’s Nibali cruises to victory in 18th stage of Tour de France

    Read more

  • Iraqi parliament elects moderate Kurd as president

    Read more

  • US, European agencies lift travel restrictions to Tel Aviv

    Read more

Asia-pacific

Pensioners prepared to risk it all to clean up nuclear plants

Text by Charlotte BOITIAUX

Latest update : 2011-06-08

Japan’s nuclear crisis, ignited by a devastating earthquake and tsunami on March 11, continues to worry scientist. Now a group of Japanese pensions says they are prepared to brave the radiation and embark on a high-risk cleanup operation.

They’re in the twilight of they lives – and they’re prepared to risk it all to put an end to the disaster at the stricken Fukushima nuclear plant in Japan.

A group of more than 200 Japanese pensioners, mostly former engineers and industrial workers, are willing to go into the stricken plant and stop the radioactive leaks.

“I’m 72 years old, and on average I probably have 13 to 15 years left to live," Yasuteru Yamada told BBC TV on May 31. "Even if I were exposed to radiation, cancer could take 20 or 30 years or longer to develop. Therefore us older ones have less chance of getting cancer."

Yasuteru Yamada is quite sane – and yet he knows that the mission that he proposes is fraught with risk: the radiation levels at the Fukushima plant are highly dangerous.

The former engineer at Sumitomo Metal Industries, Japan’s biggest steel works, has decided that he cannot stand idly by in the face of Japan’s biggest catastrophe since the Second World War.

He wants to put his engineering experience to good use – and he believes that the younger generation should be spared the disastrous consequences of Japan’s nuclear disaster.

So for the past few weeks Mr Yamada has been using email and social networking tools like Twitter to reach out to other former engineers who are ready to put their lives on the line in the service of their country.

‘Skilled Veterans Corps’

So far there are more than 200 volunteers – a so-called “Skilled Veterans Corps” – who are prepared to risk everything.

The initiative is no laughing matter, says Japan expert Professor Claude Mayer of the Paris Sciences Po University.

“One must remember that the Japanese have a huge sense of duty and sacrifice inbuilt into their national subconscious,” he told FRANCE 24. “They have a strong sense of duty beyond themselves personally.

“It is difficult to describe in a few words. One has to look at the Japanese national history, the wars it has fought, the religions it has adopted, the deep and strong code of honour that has evolved over centuries.”

Mr Yamada is somewhat more pragmatic. The approach, he said, must be “logical” – everything must and can be done to avoid risk.

And he laughs off the BBC’s suggestion that his Skilled Veterans Corps are “kamikaze pensioners.”

“We are not kamikaze. The kamikaze were something strange, no risk management there. They were going to die. But we are going to come back. We have to work but never die.”

For now, the heroic optimism of the volunteer pensioners is not shared by the Japanese government.

Mr Yamada says he has been lobbying both Tepco, the company that runs the power plant, and the government. “It’s politically very sensitive,” he said.

And at the power plant things are going from bad to worse. Three months after the devastating earthquake and tsunami of March 11, the damaged reactors have yet to cool.

Yasuteru Yamada speaks to the BBC

Date created : 2011-06-08

  • JAPAN

    IAEA: Japan underestimated nuclear plant tsunami risk

    Read more

  • JAPAN

    Fukushima operator admits more reactor meltdowns

    Read more

  • JAPAN

    Underground walls could help stop radioactive leaks at Fukushima

    Read more

COMMENT(S)