Suicide squads face radiation death, and a bad day for Philly cops’ image

    Imagine you’re a guy working a shift at a nuclear power plant you know is safe and secure even from earthquakes, then suddenly finding yourself in a dark control room without instruments or power, knowing that your reactor could soon melt down and take you and thousands of others with you.

    When somebody figures out you can take car batteries from the parking lot and get enough power to get your instruments working, you discover things are worse than you thought.

    Today on Fresh Air, I speak with Dan Edge, an investigative reporter who directed a remarkable documentary for “Frontline” about the disasters at Japan’s Fukumshima nuclear plant after last year’s earthquake and tsunami.

    There are too many gripping moments in both the interview and program to describe, but here’s just one: Several days into the crisis, after several explosions and the meltdown of some nuclear fuel, the Japanese prime minister hears that Tepco, the utility that runs the plant, is planning to withdraw all of its personnel and let the disaster take its ugly course.

    The prime minister storms over to the utility’s Tokyo headquarters in the middle of the night and demands a meeting with executives, which workers at the plant join by video link. The prime ministers implores the oldest workers at the deteriorating plant to stand and fight.

    At one point, a “suicide squad” of volunteers went into the plant to perform critical operations.

    You can hear “Fresh Air” at 3 and 7 pm. On WHYY (91FM). If you’re listening outside the Philly area, find a station here. And of course, you can always learn more, download a podcast or listen at the “Fresh Air” website

    You can see “Frontline” tonight at 9 on WHYY-TV Channel 12.

    And if you missed it, check out the story in the Philadelphia Daily News by the Pulitzer Prize-winning team of Wendy  Ruderman and Barbara Laker about the Philadelphia police officer who was re-hired after a string of allegations that he stole money from people he stopped, but didn’t arrest.

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