Providing electricity is of increasing concern without nuclear power generation as it’s becoming hotter and hotter here in Japan. The government has no intension of stopping all of the nuclear power plants, but citizens don’t want to rely on atomic power generation anymore. The issue of Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant hasn’t still settled yet… I’ll translate an article on the plant into English below…
This is an article of the Chunichi on June 1: There has been no end in sight of the issue in Fukushima First Nuclear Power Plant of Tokyo Electric Power Company yet. Fuel of Unit 1 Reactor has been leaking from the pressure vessel since the accident on March 11, and the contaminated water has been increasing. Unit 4 Reactor’s spent fuel pool is approaching its limit. The power plant is also facing a labor shortage. The subcontracts have been forced to be exposed to radiation without safe control. In the summer, the work environment must become worse. We need manpower. It’s urgent to establish safety management.
If you search in some job offer websites on the Internet, you’ll find some information in which places of work are Futaba, or Okuma in Fukushima Prefecture. In those two small towns, Fukushima First Nuclear Power Plant is built. The job information is making no mention of “the nuclear power plant”, but it’s obvious those employment offers must be related to the plant. According to the information, the jobs are operators for remote-controlled robots, electrical workers, and common labors, and so on. The wage is dependent on the job, but it’s around 130,000 to 240,000 yen a month to common labors.
It is expected to take a long term to settle the issue and concerned to have adequate human resources for it in Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant. The biggest obstacle, however, is a problem of exposure. Usually permissible exposure level is less than 50 mSv a year and less than 100 mSV in five years, but it has changed up to 250 mSv a year as an emergency measure since the accident. But Ms. Mikiko Watanabe in Citizens’ Nuclear Information Center has declared, “It’s terribly high level and unacceptable.” According to the center, 10 people who used to work in nuclear power plants have already been admitted as victims of industrial accidents. The late Mitsuaki Nagao, one of them, suffered from multiple myeloma. He was exposed to 70 mSv of radiation in about four years. Even a person, who was exposed to 40 mSv of radiation, has been admitted as a victim. It is clear the present scale is how lax and dangerous.
Most of the victims are subcontract workers. According to the data in 2009 of Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency, subcontract workers were about 75,000 in 85,000 of the workers in Japan’s nuclear power plants. Mr. Kenji Higuchi, the cameraman who has interviewed workers in nuclear power stations for about 40 years, says, “Someone have to enter into the atomic reactors, and only subcontract workers do such dangerous tasks. It’s common that sub-sub contractors and sub-sub-sub contractors do the job. Japan’s all nuclear power plants are built on the sacrifice of those people.”
According to Professor Takeo Kinoshita of Showa Women’s University, Tokyo Electric Power Company progressed contract work system in 1960’s. Their employees had worked on power poles, but some of them sometimes died from electricity and the workers’ injuries became their problem. Their union has demanded to use contract workers at dangerous places instead of them and then they have started using service contract for dangerous tasks.
Mr. Higuchi says, “There’s discrimination that they treat nuclear plant workers as unpersons. This issue has been neglected for more than 40 years. If this discrimination existed, it would be difficult to gather workers in nuclear plants. And if there was no stringent radiation protection, workers would be afraid of health damage. Real tragedy of that accident will start due to exposure to radiation and labor shortage.”
Mr. Youichi Masuzoe, a member of the Upper House and the former Health Minister, says, “Workers in Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant had insufficient food and place to rest at first. It looked like Imperial Japanese Army.” He pointed out at the Upper House Budget Committee last April that the workers at Fukushima Plant would need to store their own hematopoietic stem cells to save their lives. But the Prime Minister Naoto Kan rejected his opinion and just said, “They should be careful not to exposure to high dose of radiation to prevent that happening.” Mr. Masuzoe is irate and says, “It’s disregard for human life. If the prime minister had to go to the plant, he would pick up cells on ahead. We should never make workers become “kamikaze pilots”.” A worker in his 60’s died from a heart attack at the plant last May. Mr. Masuzoe has stressed the need for emergency medical system as well.
Medical front also says the necessity for the workers’ health condition. Professor Masahiro Kami of the Institute of Medical Science in the University of Tokyo, says, “Workers whose parents have had cancers increase anxiety. It’s necessary for them to have medical checkups and counseling. If we had heard from the worker who died from a heart attack on his condition in advance, we might have prevented the attack.” The Health Ministry has established a management office for making a database of workers’ exposure level. But Professor M. Kami has pointed out, “It’s meaningless unless experts check and care the workers.” Professor T. Kinoshita of Showa Women’s University has appealed that the Health Ministry should send the labor standard inspector or set the consultation service.
According to a subcontractor, which has sent workers to Fukushima First and Second Nuclear Power Plant, it’s expected to have a labor shortage this summer. There is not another place that hot except for the plant. Goggles are steamed and you can’t see anything there. If the reactors are covered by sheets, the temperature will soar up. No one will be able to stand it. Some construction companies have started declined works related to Tokyo Electric Power Company. Equipments are construction companies’. They don’t want their things to get contaminated by radiation because they can’t use them at other places anymore and TEPCO has never mentioned about compensation. Now workers at the nuclear plant have dosimeters, but they turn them off. If they didn’t switch them off, the alarm would start to ring instantly and they couldn’t do anything. Their protective clothing is ineffective in external exposure. No one write the real number of exposure level on the note. If they wrote the truth, their permissible exposure level would cross the bounds and they wouldn’t be able to work soon. TEPCO used not to use workers in 60’s before, but most of the workers are in the generation now because they can easily avoid having the issue of work related death. The actual condition is common knowledge among workers, but no one appeals that because they are afraid of putting others in trouble. Now workers in the power plant are pinched for money or are driven by a sense of mission. It’s a matter of time there to face shortage of manpower.