A woman in a public forum asked a question to the two panelists: Why did my friend die?
The event was held in Sapporo City on November 6, 2011.
Her friend was a member of the special rescue unit of the Fire Department (probably in Osaka) who was sent numerous times to the disaster-affected areas in Fukushima and Iwate for the rescue effort. In July, he was found with internal radiation exposure, but he had to continue working. His employer kept sending him and his colleagues to the disaster area even after the internal radiation exposure was found in them.
She says that they got sick and they had to quit. But that was after they were berated by their superior as "unpatriotic". Her friend died in 3 months after having been found with internal radiation exposure.
There were many, many untrained, ordinary citizens who went to Fukushima, Miyagi, and Iwate as volunteers for disaster relief. Now, Fukushima Prefecture is calling for citizen volunteers to come and decontaminate their heavily contaminated towns.
Translation and captioning by Tokyo Brown Tabby:
On October 26, a friend of mine in Osaka passed away. He was a rescue squad member and had been sent to work in disaster-affected areas for a long time, such as Iwate or Fukushima.
In July, he was found to have been internally exposed to radiation. All his team members had been, too. But their mission didn't end. Rescue people are those who went through very hard training and have a strong will to do something for the sake of others. So they continued to carry out their mission, even though they knew they had been exposed to radiation.
Eventually they got sick and realized they couldn't continue their duties any more. All the team members including him quit the rescue squad. Before they quit, they had been condemned by their supervisors as unpatriotic.
In a little more than 3 months since his internal exposure was found in July, my friend vomited blood frequently and finally died of renal failure.
Those people who are in charge of debris disposal or something like that...Can't they do it safely? I just don't understand why people who serve us have to lose their lives like this. But we can't do it by ourselves, can we? What do you think? This is what I wanted to ask you.
Maybe difficult...Simply...you know, simply generating electricity exposes workers to radiation. They have to enter various places for maintenance work and all. Nuclear power makes up less than 30% of our whole electricity generation, sacrificing the health of such people. I wonder what it is for.
Why won't they abandon it when other methods can compensate for its absence? Even when such a terrible disaster occurred? After all, it's clear that they do nothing to take care of the aftermath. Nothing. Neither TEPCO nor the government.
That's why nuclear electricity is said to be cheap. Of course it's cheap, because they do nothing even when a worst-case scenario happens. Doing nothing costs nothing.
Doctor...excuse me, Dr. Sakiyama, is it difficult for those people who touch debris or other radioactive things to work safely?
(Use this wired microphone...)
You don't need to stand up, please remain seated.
Well, if they wore something like space suits, they might be protected. But then they wouldn't be able to move around to do the work.
It's not just a problem for people in charge of debris disposal, but also for workers at the site of Fukushima-1 plant. As you know, their exposure limit has been raised from the original 100 millisievert to 250. Without their efforts, nobody knows what will become of the plant. We depend upon them, heavily. And even when there is no accident, nuke plants are only made possible by their labor that involves radiation exposure. Dr. Koide often refers to it as "built on the structure of discrimination."
We have been wrong in letting it be this way for a long time. Now I'm really not sure what to do.
Dr. Sakiyama cunningly switched the subject to the Fukushima plant workers, but the issue here is not the plant workers. It's the rescue squad members, it's the volunteers, it's the residents, who have been exposed, willing or not, to radiation that could kill over time, and who are without any shred of safeguard for their health. If they die, it is because of "stress". But at least she candidly admits that she doesn't know what to do.
Dr. Hisako Sakiyama is a specialist in radiation exposure and ex-chief researcher at National Institute of Radiological Sciences.