Half in darkness, workers huddle in one of Fukushima Daiichi’s control rooms.
The group of scientists and low- and middle-level managers who have stayed behind to deal with the crisis—authorities say there actually may be a hundred of them—have been hailed as national heroes in Japan.
Japan's Health Ministry more than doubled the legal limit on the amount of radiation to which each worker could be exposed, in order to maintain the workforce at the site.
Little information has been offered on the workers, except that they are rotating in shifts to limit their exposure to radiation. It is known that two workers have been missing since the earthquake and tsunami, 15 were injured in two of the reactor explosions, and more than 20 have been treated or observed for radiological contamination.*
(Related: "How Is Japan's Nuclear Disaster Different?")
Their plight recalls the "liquidators," the cleanup workers at the Chernobyl nuclear plant meltdown in Ukraine 25 years ago. Twenty-eight of those workers died from radiation exposure within weeks of the accident.
(Related: "Eyeing Japan, Countries Reassess Nuclear Plans")
*An earlier version of this story said it is known that five workers have died, a figure included in some early accident reports. The International Atomic Energy Agency only confirms the missing workers and injuries based on reports from Japan's Chief Cabinet Secretary. IAEA issued a report on the workers on March 17.