On the Japanese workers—some 18,000 of them—who have ventured into the radioactive exclusion zone following the meltdowns at Fukushima, and the work of radiation expert Dr. Robert Gale:

The worries about the spread of radiation have hardly abated, but the workers remain all but nameless and faceless; they rarely speak to the press—for fear of being fired—and all that most of us see of them are pictures of virtually extraterrestrial figures in HAZMAT suits and masks clomping around a wasteland eerily emptied of 100,000 people. (It is estimated that more than 19,000 people have died in the disaster.) They’re shedding a little of their anonymity today, though, because word has gotten out that one of the world’s most celebrated experts on radiation has come to talk to them, and to try to put their concerns into perspective. As Gale walks the streets of the small town 115 miles north of Tokyo, one set of workers after another asks to talk to him, if only so they can share their worries as they can with few others—even if his reassurances may echo some of those given by their government. One worker, at the end of a long evening, even wraps Gale in a bear hug, an all but unheard-of show of affection in reserved Japan.

“Heroes of the Hot Zone.” — Pico Iyer, Vanity Fair

See also: “Fukushima Disaster: It’s Not Over Yet.” Guardian, Sept. 9, 2011

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