The Prince of Asturias Foundation in Spain has decided to give "Fukushima heroes" - workers at Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant, firefighters and Self Defense Force soldiers who risked (and are still risking) radiation to contain the nuclear disaster - the 2011 Prince of Asturias Award for Concord (peace prize).
Prince of Asturias is the designation given to the crown prince of Spain, or the heir apparent.
Thank you, your Royal Highness.
From the Foundation's press release on September 7:
The 2011 Prince of Asturias Award for Concord has been bestowed on the “heroes of Fukushima”. The Jury for the Award announced its decision today in Oviedo.
This group of people represent the highest values of the human condition by trying to prevent, through their sacrifice, the nuclear disaster caused by the tsunami that struck Japan from multiplying its devastating effects, disregarding the grave consequences that this decision would have on their lives. Their courageous and exemplary behaviour has earned them the international epithet “heroes of Fukushima”.
This candidature was put forward by Josep Piqué i Camps, president of the Spain-Japan Council Foundation (Madrid) and seconded, among others, by Miguel Angel Navarro, Spain’s ambassador to Japan; Fernando Salazar, vice-president of the Spanish Institute of Foreign Trade; Juan José Herrera, director general of Casa Asia; Daniel Hernandez, rector of the University of Salamanca; and Alberto Ruiz-Gallardón, Mayor of Madrid.
Following the massive earthquake and tsunami that occurred in north-eastern Japan on March 11, 2011 and which caused around 28,000 deaths and displaced some 350,000 people, Fukushima nuclear power plant suffered significant damage resulting in hydrogen explosions and fusion of nuclear fuel as well as causing several deaths and serious injuries due to radiation among workers at the plant. The International Atomic Energy Agency and the Japanese government initially placed the alert levels between 5 and 6 on a scale of 7, and finally at 7, as after the Chernobyl accident.
Despite major uncertainty regarding the development of the nuclear emergency, the different groups that worked for weeks in Fukushima did so under extreme conditions (high radiation, continuously rotating shifts and only a few hours of rest, and limited supplies of food and drinking water). As a result, many workers developed chronic pathologies such as arrhythmia and hyperventilation. Despite these grave consequences, they continued to participate in the efforts to regain control of the nuclear plant, aware of how essential their work was to prevent a catastrophe of even greater magnitude.
The work was carried out by three groups of people: employees of the Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO), the plant’s operator; of its 130 workers, 50 volunteered, as did some workers who had already retired or were nearing retirement, and, after increasing the number of rotating shifts and the needs for personnel, additional staff was hired (by May 3, 1,312 workers had intervened in Fukushima); fire fighters from various prefectures, especially from Tokyo, who participated in the work of cooling the reactors, a key task to restore control of the plant; and the Japanese Armed Forces, whose work cooling the reactors by launching water from helicopters, inspecting the damage from the air, cordoning off the exclusion area and evacuating people when the reactors emitted very high doses of radiation was very important.
The behaviour of these people has also embodied the values most deeply rooted in Japanese society, such as the sense of duty, personal and family sacrifice for the greater good and dignity in the face of adversity, humility, generosity and courage.