The First Photos from Inside the Fukushima Nuclear Plant

Japan's Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency released the first round of photographs from the interior of the stricken Fukushima Dai-ichi Nuclear Power Plant, where 180 workers, operating in rotating shifts, are struggling to contain and control the release of radiation.

The conditions are, unsurprisingly, dark, and cramped; the workers' protective gear looks bulky and difficult to work in. "Five are believed to have already died," according to the Daily Mail, which should be taken with a grain of salt, "and 15 are injured while others have said they know the radiation will kill them." The Wall Street Journal has a a good (and rather more fact-based) article on the workers, and their nickname: the "Fukushima 50."

Some 60 essential staff live on the reactor site in a heavily shielded building, leading to early impressions that the fate of the reactor-cooling effort hung in the hands of a crew somewhat misleadingly dubbed the Fukushima 50. Those core managers, led by the director of the Fukushima Daiichi plant, guide the recovery effort, operate the control room and keep an eye on reactor readings. They rarely leave the building...

Workers wear protective gear and a mask and must have had training in dealing with radioactive environments. Each person also wears two badges, in chest pockets under gear, to track radiation exposure on each visit. Each worker is limited to a total of 250,000 microsieverts for the duration of the crisis, a limit that was lifted last week from 100,000 microsieverts-the borderline for what is considered "low-dose" exposure.

Though the worst possible scenario seems to have been forestalled, the plant is hardly out of the woods; "some of the most difficult and dangerous tasks are still ahead," The New York Times reports—not just containment but cleanup. The Fukushima 50 will be there till the end.

[All images via AP]

The First Photos from Inside the Fukushima Nuclear Plant

A collapsed eave lies outside the security gate for Unit 1 and Unit 2. [Image via AP]

The First Photos from Inside the Fukushima Nuclear Plant

Workers collect data in the control room for Unit 1 and Unit 2. [Image via AP]

The First Photos from Inside the Fukushima Nuclear Plant

Workers collect data in the control room for Unit 1 and Unit 2. [Image via AP]

The First Photos from Inside the Fukushima Nuclear Plant

A Tokyo Electric Power Co. worker looks at gauges in the control room for Unit 1 and Unit 2. [Image via AP]

The First Photos from Inside the Fukushima Nuclear Plant

Tokyo Metro firefighters gather together before they begin setting up to spray water. [Image via AP]

The First Photos from Inside the Fukushima Nuclear Plant

Tokyo Metro firefighters in protective suits listen to operational briefing before they go out to set up to spray water. [Image via AP]