Safety fears at Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant

03/05/2012
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TOKYO (majirox news) — Low pay and overwork could trigger a shortage of workers at Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. The Tokyo Occupational Safety and Health Center warned this week of these dangers – with workers at the crippled site earning as little as 100 dollars a day.

After the March 11, 2011, earthquake and tsunami crippled Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, conditions of the workers seem to be plummeting. For example, according to the Sankei newspaper, a man in his 50s working at Fukushima nuclear power plant died in October, apparently from overwork.

One government official has taken issue with plant operator Tokyo Electric Power Company’s (TEPCO) handling of the situation. “There’s no mistaking that the plant is a dangerous worksite, and I don’t think that we have adequate working conditions in place there,” said Katsuya Iida, secretary general of the Tokyo Occupational Safety and Health Center. “So it’s hard to say if we will be able to bring in a large number of people required to do the work. The point I must emphasize is that it’s really important to reduce the amount of radiation that each individual gets and to do that, we need to bring in more people.”

Bringing in more workers is going to be hard. Already, 167 workers have exceeded their lifetime radiation exposure limit of 100 milliseverts. Now public concern hangs on the threat of radiation.

A housewife who lives in Tokyo says, “I don’t think we can say it’s safe, because nobody has properly seen the inside of plant. It might be safe, but I do worry that it might get even worse than it is now.”

The cleanup program is also suffering regular setbacks. High levels of radiation, the so-called “hot spots,” are also adding to the worries.

Tetsuya Endo said, “What is the situation, the real situation of the core areas of the nuclear reactors, since nobody goes in there we don’t get to know.”

Together with an independent panel, established by the Rebuild Japan Initiative Foundation, Endo spent six months investigating events before and following the nuclear disaster. The results pinpointed a series of human errors as the cause of the crisis.

“The basic design of the nuclear reactors has not been robust to be protective against a big tsunami,” Endo said. “Severe accident management has been so poor. The workers haven’t been trained to work under such conditions.”

Many Japanese citizens have lost faith in the country’s government, given the meltdown occurred on the day of the tsunami, but this was only confirmed by TEPCO and the government three months after the disaster. However, the government is seeking tighter control over TEPCO and has pledged greater transparency.

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