In March 2011, an earthquake and tsunami in Japan created the worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl. A series of meltdowns at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant in Okuma forced nearly 150,000 people to evacuate a “no-go zone” of some 600-square kilometers. The intensive cleanup effort is expected to take upwards of thirty years and around 45,000 people remain displaced.
However, the disaster could have been much worse. As the plant was being evacuated, a group of workers stayed behind to stabilize the reactors as best they could, risking injury, exposure, and death. Dubbed the “Fukushima 50” by the media, though more than fifty were eventually involved in the efforts, these workers prevented a nationwide catastrophe.