Retiree inspires with dangerous work effort

Yasuteru Yamada (photo credit: BBC News)Repairing damaged nuclear reactors isn’t my first idea for an encore career, but a brave 72-year-old Japanese man is gathering fellow elders and retirees to join him in such dangerous work.

Actually an “encore career” probably never crossed Yasuteru Yamada’s mind. He saw a desperate need at the Fukushima Daiichi power plant and thought of a possible solution: Why not have engineers and technicians over the age of 60 do the work?

As he explained to BBC News: “Even if I were exposed to radiation, cancer could take 20 or 30 years or longer to develop. Therefore us older ones have less chance of getting cancer.”

The retired engineer reportedly got the idea while watching attempts on TV to save the reactors, which have leaked radiation since the disastrous earthquake in March. He started recruiting volunteers for the Skilled Veterans Corps, and his blog outlines a seven-point proposal for why older specialists should do the work.

He writes, “Our generation who has, consciously or unconsciously, approved the construction of the Fukushima nuclear power plants and enjoyed the benefits of the vast supply of electricity generated — in particular those of us who hailed the slogan that ‘Nuclear Power is Safe’ — should be the first to join the Skilled Veteran Corps to install or repair the cooling system. This is the duty of our generation to the next generation and the one thereafter.”

His proposal makes a lot of sense, and Japanese officials are listening. More than 400 people have volunteered for the organization, according to a New York Times report.

Mr. Yamada is an inspiration on so many levels – professional, entrepreneurial, creative, and solutions-oriented. (Hint to Anderson Cooper: This guy deserves to be on CNN’s “heroes” special this year!)

He’s bringing hope to a seemingly hopeless crisis. I hope I can be like him some day.

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