Posts Tagged working conditions

Inside Fukushima – interactive guide | World news |

Earlier this month, Kazuma Obara became the first photojournalist to gain unauthorised access to the power plant and produced an exclusive glimpse of life inside the facility

via Inside Fukushima – interactive guide | World news |

Mouse-tip to EX-SKF

Some interesting nuggets of information provided by Obara:

  1. The plant has its own petrol station within the compound.
  2. Petrol is free to workers
  3. Most workers don’t know the purpose of what they are doing.
  4. Workers do not talk to each other much, and don’t know what other groups of workers are doing.


Fukushima Dai-ichi. Photo by Kazuma Obara

Fukushima Dai-ichi. Photo by Kazuma Obara. Posted on the Guardian website

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Nuke plant hires not overexposed | The Japan Times Online

A radiation table with data on about 70 employees from subcontractors hired to bring the Fukushima nuclear plant crisis under control says none were exposed beyond the emergency limit of 250 millisieverts, a document obtained by Kyodo News says.

The document — a table on workers’ radiation exposure — was compiled by subcontractors based on information on each worker’s radiation exposure and other data from Tokyo Electric Power Co., also known as Tepco.

The document lists the workers’ names, employers and kind of work they engaged in, along with daily exposure divided by working time, traveling time and waiting time, and accumulated amounts of exposure.

The data reveal for the first time how Tepco is managing workers’ radiation exposure. Many workers already have a cumulative exposure of around 30 millisieverts, the table says. One worker was exposed to 0.2 millisievert each day, which brought his cumulative exposure to over 30 millisieverts.

via Nuke plant hires not overexposed | The Japan Times Online.

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TEPCO president apologizes in Fukushima : National : DAILY YOMIURI ONLINE The Daily Yomiuri

FUKUSHIMA–Masataka Shimizu, the president of Tokyo Electric Power Co., visited Fukushima Gov. Yuhei Sato on Friday to apologize for the ongoing crisis at the firms Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant, but the governor expressed dissatisfaction with the company’s handling of the situation.

This was the first time the TEPCO president had met with the governor since the nuclear crisis began. Sato openly showed emotion when he talked about children who have been forced to evacuate due to the nuclear accident. Sato said about 6,000 children had moved to other prefectures.

Shimizu explained TEPCO’s plan to end the nuclear crisis and discussed compensation for evacuees with the governor. “We’ll soon begin handing out initial payments, set up consultation centers and respond to people’s requests,” Shimizu said.Sato replied, “Compensation must be provided at all cost,” and demanded the firm pay for several kinds of damages, including those caused by rumors.

Regarding the possibility of restarting the nuclear power plant, the governor said it was “impossible under the current situation.”

via TEPCO president apologizes in Fukushima : National : DAILY YOMIURI ONLINE The Daily Yomiuri.

Paying compensation for rumours? How will that work, exactly? What’s the going rate for “damage caused by a rumour”? What kind of damage?

I understand Governor Sato’s feelings, but why does he have the power to decide, on behalf of everyone in Fukushima, whether or not there will be a nuclear power plant in Fukushima? (Click here to read more trenchant comments below the fold.)

Read the rest of this entry »

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Nuke workers at risk of overwork death | The Japan Times Online

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More on the TEPCO Fukushima workers’ working conditions. I’ve underlined one part that seems to reveal peculiary Japanese values.

The workers are not only undertaking dangerous work in severe conditions but also feel a sense of moral responsibility as employees of the operator of the crippled plant, Takeshi Tanigawa said in an interview….

Tanigawa, a professor at Ehime University School of Medicine, has been a part-time industrial physician for the two Fukushima nuclear plants since 1991….

At the end of each day, workers are decontaminated and go to the Fukushima No. 2 nuclear plant some 10 km south to sleep on the floor of a gymnasium in sleeping bags with blankets. There are tatami mats on the floor and a sheet to insulate them from the cold, he said.

Among the workers was one engaged in work around the clock without being allowed to go out at one point, he said. Read the rest of this entry »

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“What the hell are TEPCO playing at?”

On Kansai /Fuji TV’s 8 o’clock morning news show Tokudaneとくダネ, it was reported that the TEPCO workers at the stricken Fukushima plant have only just recently started receiving a different kind of meals than the biscuits and fruit that they have been living on since March 11. But they have not yet been issued with futons (Japanese-style mattresses) to sleep on, and there are still insufficient bathing and showering facilities.

The show’s main presenter (I think it’s Tomoaki Ogura, centre in this photo) spoke the harshest words I’ve yet heard about TEPCO on Japanese TV: “What the hell are they playing around at?” (ふざけてるんじゃないか?)

And here are some more details from Japan’s Crisis: Context and Outlook  which I mentioned yesterday. I would say “some circumstances are truly inexplicable”:

Some circumstances were truly inexplicable, perhaps most shockingly the persistently inadequate number of individual dosimeters (radiation-sensitive gadgets worn by workers to measure their cumulative exposure to nuclear radiations). Because hundreds of dosimeters were apparently destroyed by the tsunami, Dai-ichi station personnel sent into high-radiation areas of the stricken plant did not have enough individual units and were forced to “share” the devices, by staying close together and hoping that the single dosimeter carried by one group member somehow would more or less indicate the dose being received by all others. This was revealed by Japan’s Nuclear Industrial Safety Agency only on March 31, with no explanation of why dosimeters were not immediately brought in from nearby nuclear power stations. Not much less bizarre was the fact that, even three weeks after the crisis began, the emergency workers at the Dai-ichi station were still subsisting on only two meals a day, including a breakfast of vegetable juice and crackers; when the available rations went from two to three meals a day in early April, the TEPCO spokesman admitted that the workers’ diet still had very little variety. Not surprisingly, even a population prone to be forbearing and tolerant in crises hardened its collective mind: about 60 percent of Japanese polled disapproved of the government’s handling of the nuclear crisis.

A recent newspaper article listed the political donations last year from TEPCO’s top management. All to the LDP.

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Nuke plant worker mum about own exposure to fallout | The Japan Times Online

The “faceless Fukushima 50”, they’ve been called. They’ve also been banned from talking to the media, although some are obviously defying the ban (or is this a deliberate leak?).

I haven’t been keeping a beady eye on non-Japanese media reports about these, so I’m not sure how they have been reported, but no doubt there will be (or perhaps have been) the usual, predictable slew of “Cover-up!! Government lies!!!”-type articles. It sells newspapers and attracts eyeballs, which is what “media” is all about.

A group of Japanese women I spoke to recently about the “faceless Fukushima 50” did not jump to this conclusion. What was their conclusion? That TEPCO was not revealing names in order to protect the workers. After all, everyone is guessing that the workers have been exposed to high levels of radiation. What happens to them after they come home? If they try to change jobs? Chances are high that they will be ostracized.

Voice of America reporter Steve Herman, who traveled around the quake-hit area for 7-10 days after the earthquake and whose reporting focused on the Fukushima nuclear crisis, tweeted on his return to Tokyo that everyone was glad to see him back but no-one wanted to hug him!

Imagine how it might be for those TEPCO workers if they were “outed”.

I have no evidence to prove that this is, in fact, TEPCO’s motivation for keeping their workers anonymous. However, if my past experience is any guide, the typical, Western, knee-jerk conclusion is wrong, more often than not, when it comes to interpreting Japanese behaviour. The parameters are different.

This Japan Times article says Murata has stayed at the plant since March 11, but an earlier Japan Times article (April 3) reported “In regular rotation, groups are bused out to three-day shifts of punishing work at the water-logged, radiation-spewing complex.”

“I can’t tell you. It’s personal information,” said Yasuki Murata, a 44-year-old worker from the plant’s planning and public relations section, batting away repeated questions about his radiation exposure in an interview Wednesday.

Since the March 11 earthquake and tsunami crippled the plant, causing it to spew radioactive materials into the environment, Murata has been staying on the plant’s premises in a two-story quake-proof building whose few windows are covered with lead plates to keep out radiation.

via Nuke plant worker mum about own exposure to fallout | The Japan Times Online.

TEPCO workers in happiers days

TEPCO workers in happier days (click photo for source)

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Rural sports complex turns into base camp for nuclear workers | The Japan Times Online

The Japan Times provides more details of the working conditions at Fukushima, and reports on Kan’s visit there.
Update:I don’t think this is the complete truth, but this article and others on the same subject seem to indicate that the government and TEPCo are aware of people’s concern and anxiety over
a) the workers on the front-lines of this crisis, and
b) the secrecy that continues to shroud exactly what is going on in the plant.
One could be cynical and say the officials are trying to avert criticism and fob people off, but I take Edano’s statement of gratitude as 100% sincere (if a little late). As was Tokyo mayor Ishihara’s expression of thanks to the Tokyo Hyperrescue fire-fighting team.

“I humbly bow to the workers and officials who are engaged in various difficult work at the frontline of the nuclear plant,” Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano said Tuesday.

via Rural sports complex turns into base camp for nuclear workers | The Japan Times Online.

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Iodine-131 found in groundwater | The Japan Times Online

This is unbelievable, although not entirely unexpected. I recall those workers who were hospitalized due to excessive radiation: it appeared they had ignored their dosimeters. My foot. They probably did not have dosimeters and the blame was shifted on to them.

Tokyo Electric Co. came under further fire Friday after it was revealed that many of its employees at the damaged Fukushima No. 1 power plant have been working without the protection of dosimeters. It also said radioactivity in groundwater under the compound spiked.

via Iodine-131 found in groundwater | The Japan Times Online.

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Two different sources, two different stories. Which to believe?

Workers at the disaster-stricken Fukushima nuclear plant in Japan say they expect to die from radiation sickness as a result of their efforts to bring the reactors under control, the mother of one of the men tells Fox News

via Japans Nuclear Rescuers: Inevitable Some of Them May Die Within Weeks –

On the other hand, speaking of the development of super drugs to tackel radiation sickness, this story says,

 it is unclear whether anyone in Japan, even workers at the Fukushima plant, have been exposed to enough radiation to warrant such treatments.

via Nuclear Crisis Adds Urgency to Develop Radiation Drugs –

Which to believe?

All one can reasonably do is remain open to the possibility that either one may turn out to be true or more accurate than the other. We just have to wait until more data is available. Neither article provides any data to support its contention (the first article is simply reporting an interview with the mother of one of the workers).

The conditions in the Fukushima nuclear plant do not sound good, and the details mentioned in the Fox news article had previously been reported on Japanese TV (I saw them on Mino Monta’s morning show, 5:30-8:30 Mainichi Broadcasting: みのもんたの朝ズバッ!)

Japan’s Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency says that workers were only eating two basic meals of crackers and dried rice a day, and sleeping in conference rooms and hallways in the building.

According to Kaieda, not all of the workers had apparently been provided with lead sheeting to shield themselves from potentially radiation-contaminated floors while sleeping.

Mino Monta had on his show on Thursday morning a former TEPCO worker (BTW, “TEPCO” is known in Japan as “To-den” (pronounced “taw den”, a shortening of Tokyo Denryoku; no-one understands me when I say “Tepco”).

 This young man explained, in addition to the above, that

  • the reason for the meagre diet is not just shortage of supplies, but also because the sewage system is not working properly: it help prevent toilet overflows, in other words!
  • those “radiation suits”? They’re not. They are just work overalls. They’re made of nylong, and as far as protection from radiation is concerned, one might as well be naked. 

Beat Takeshi, on his show, listed some demands. Amongst them were, “drop this stupid dual  50 Hz/60Hz system nonsense” and “give all the Fukushima plant workers National Medals of Honour”.

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