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Retired Fukushima engineers to seek U.S. assistance

ScienceRetired Japanese engineers are set to embark on a monthlong tour of the United States to seek that country’s support to realize their desire to help contain the Fukushima nuclear crisis.

The group wants to work at Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant in place of younger workers engaged in crisis-control work. The members of the Skilled Veterans Corps for Fukushima, headed by 73-year-old retired engineer Yasuteru Yamada, are planning to take over their radiation exposure risks.

But the organization has faced rejection from TEPCO and the government. The group hopes the U.S. visit will help their cause.

Yamada and another member of the group will leave for San Francisco on Saturday. They will also visit Chicago, Washington and Los Angeles before returning home Aug. 21.

During the tour, the two are slated to deliver speeches, attend seminars, hold interviews and meet with U.S. lawmakers.

Yamada formed the group in April 2011 following the March 11 earthquake and tsunami.

“Retired professionals with knowledge and experience who tend to be less affected by radiation should take over the risks from younger workers,” the group believes. It has proposed that members take part in decontamination and other work within 20 kilometers of the plant and work to contain the crisis inside the reactor buildings.

The group has 2,300 members and supporters.

In July 2011, Yamada and four other members visited a work site at the crippled nuclear power plant.

Yamada and his colleagues then held talks with senior government and TEPCO officials and explained about how group members could carry out decontamination and other work.

But the proposal was rejected. The government said it had informed TEPCO about the group, but the company told the organization that no more workers would be necessary at the plant.

With Yamada feeling hopeless, a U.S. citizens’ group last month asked him if he would be interested in talking about the group’s ambition. He welcomed the offer.

Yamada’s group is calling for the stabilization of the Fukushima plant, which is expected to take decades to complete, to be handled as a national project.

During the visit, Yamada plans to stress the need to establish a team independent of TEPCO for the work and seek cooperation from experts and technical professionals around the globe, according to the group.

Yamada hopes to gain U.S. public support for his group and hopes this will eventually lead the U.S. government to pressure the Japanese government to allow the group to work at the plant.

(Jul. 25, 2012)

Original article:

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