Update From Japan: Radioactivity Levels Soar Again, Tragic Outcomes Expected for "Fukushima 50"

Weeks after Japan's massive earthquake and tsunami, the situation at the Fukushima Daiichi plant remains dire. Media attention may have waned somewhat, but the latest reports from the area are grim. The LA Times:

Radiation levels increased sharply inside and outside the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant Thursday, slowing work on the devastated facility again and once more throwing into doubt the integrity of the containment vessels that hold the fuel rods.

Tokyo Electric Power Co. officials said the level of radioactive iodine in water at the plant hit levels 10,000 times the permissible limit, preventing workers from getting near the water, which accumulated during early efforts to prevent a full-fledged meltdown by flooding the plant.

Engineers are scrambling to figure out where the massive levels of radiation are coming from -- as they have done multiple times since the March 11 natural disasters cut off water and electricity to the plant. Their best guess is that the radiation "may be coming from a partial meltdown of the fuel core of reactor No. 1." MSNBC, meanwhile, reports that radiation is leaking from beneath the plant into the groundwater. And radioactive iodine levels have also risen in seawater near the plant.

Environmental experts fear that the cesium could get into plankton and then into fish, where it could make its way along the food chain to humans.

Speaking of the human toll of this crisis, here's a heartbreaking story about the "Fukushima 50" -- the workers who have bravely been fighting to keep the plant from fully melting down:

The so-called Fukushima 50, who actually are a group of about 300 people who have been working in shifts of 50, have become heroes in Japan and are known as atomic "samurai."

Speaking to Fox News by phone via an interpreter, the mother of a 32-year-old worker said her son had told her they must have been exposed to lethal doses of radiation.

"My son and his colleagues have discussed it at length and they have committed themselves to die if necessary to save the nation," she said. Fox News said she was tearful as she spoke.

"He told me they have accepted they will all probably die from radiation sickness in the short term or cancer in the long-term," she added.

"They have concluded between themselves that it is inevitable some of them may die within weeks or months. They know it is impossible for them not to have been exposed to lethal doses of radiation," she said.

AlterNet / By Lauren Kelley

Posted at April 1, 2011, 4:59am

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