Japanese Elderly Step Up to Fix Nuclear Mess

by Carlo Alcos Jun 2, 2011

They’re not kamikazes, says retired engineer, Yasuteru Yamada. He is 72 years old and is leading the charge of 200+ other pensioners — all over the age of 60 — into the Fukushima nuclear power plant to try to stabilize it. The group is calling themselves the Skilled Veterans Corps and they think that they should be the ones facing the radiation, not young people.

I am 72 and on average I probably have 13 to 15 years left to live. 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.

Mr. Yamada, who is lobbying the government to let them in, says that they are not brave, just logical. And while the government appreciates the sentiment, they are not yet quite ready to accept and move them in. Many of the volunteers are retired engineers, but there are others who come from different backgrounds, including a couple of cooks and a singer who, says Mr. Yamada, will help keep the team fed and entertained. As for the comparisons to the kamikaze pilots in WWII, he says,

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.

Ganbatte, Japan. Ganbatte.

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