Hugh Pickens writes "In 1988, Michael Friedlander was a newly minted shift technical adviser at a nuclear power plant near the Gulf Coast when Hurricane Gilbert, a Category 5 storm, was bearing down on the plant. They received word that all workers should leave except for critical plant personnel, and there was never a question: 'my team and I would stay, regardless of what happened.' 'The situation facing the 50 workers left at Fukushima is a nuclear operator's worst nightmare,' writes Friedlander. 'But the knowledge that a nuclear crisis could occur, and that we might be the only people standing in the way of a meltdown, defines every aspect of an operator's life.' The field attracts a very particular kind of person, says Friedlander, and the typical employee is more like a cross between a jet pilot and a firefighter: highly trained to keep a technically complex system running, but also prepared to be the first and usually only line of defense in an emergency. 'We will likely hear numerous stories of heroism over the next several days, of plant operators struggling to keep water flowing into the reactors, breathing hard against their respirators under the dim rays of a handheld flashlight in the cold, dark recesses of a critically damaged nuclear plant, knowing that at any moment another hydrogen explosion could occur.'" The severity rating of the crisis has now been raised from 4 to 5 on the International Nuclear Event Scale, and Japan's Prime Minister called the situation "very grave."
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