TEPCO workers offer to go to stricken atomic plant

TOKYO, March 17, 2011 (AFP) - Employees of Tokyo Electric Power Co, the operator of a quake-hit Japanese nuclear plant, and other industry firms have volunteered to join efforts to control the escalating crisis, local media said.

TEPCO put out a call for about 20 volunteers to join the battle to bring the situation under control at the Fukushima No.1 plant, where last week's quake and tsunami knocked out the reactor cooling systems, Jiji Press reported.

Offers came in from TEPCO employees and others, including a 59-year-old man with four decades of experience working at nuclear power stations for a regional power company and was due to retire in six months, the report said.

Officials at TEPCO were not immediately available Thursday to confirm the reports.

Japanese military helicopters dumped water Thursday on the stricken reactors at the Fukushima facility in a bid to douse fuel rods and prevent a disastrous radiation release.

The operation aims to keep the fuel rods inside reactors and containment pools submerged under water, to stop them from degrading when they are exposed to air and emitting dangerous radioactive material.

On Twitter, one woman expressed her pride -- and anguish -- at the news that her father had offered to take part in the risky operation at the plant.

"I fought back tears when I heard father, who is to retire in half a year, volunteered to go," the message read.

"He said 'The future of nuclear power generation depends on how we'll cope with this. I'll go with a sense of mission'... I've never been more proud of him."

AFP was not immediately able to confirm if the Twitter posts referred to the same man mentioned in the Jiji report.