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Heroes and realists found among the brave "Fukushima 700"

Although lionized as the "Fukushima 50" by the foreign media, there are in fact about 700 workers engaged in the daily struggle with the "invisible enemy" at the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.


A man in his 40s, who was dispatched to Fukushima No. 1 from a partner of the plant's operator, Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO), said, "I did not want to go there. But if I reject the request, I will lose my job."

The daily pay is less than 20,000 yen ($236).

"I hear some construction workers were employed at a wage of several tens of thousands of yen per hour. But we are working on a conventional daily wage as our company has had cooperative relationships with TEPCO," the man said.

by das monde on Wed Apr 13th, 2011 at 03:14:28 AM EST
Half a league, half a league,
Half a league onward,
All in the valley of Death
Rode the six hundred.
by Andhakari on Thu Apr 14th, 2011 at 10:18:14 AM EST
[ Parent ]
System of Disposable Laborers
LA Times, December 30, 1999
Kunio Murai was a struggling farmer from the wrong side of the tracks when he was recruited to work as a day laborer in a nuclear power plant near this farm town. The pay was triple what he could make anywhere else, and he was told that the work would be janitorial.

One day in 1970, he and a co-worker were ordered into a room to mop up a leak of radioactive cooling water. They wore ordinary rubber gloves, but no masks or additional protection. Murai recalls wrapping a cleaning cloth around a pipe that was spewing steam. They worked for two hours, and afterward the needle on Murai's radiation meter pointed off the scale.

"I thought it was broken," Murai said. It wasn't. Within six months, he said, his joints swelled painfully and his teeth and hair fell out.

Murai is one of tens of thousands of people who have worked over the years as subcontractors in Japanese nuclear power plants, doing the dirty, difficult and potentially dangerous jobs shunned by regular employees.

In the wake of Japan's worst nuclear accident, a nuclear fission reaction Sept. 30 at a uranium processing plant in Tokaimura, ugly allegations have surfaced of labor abuses, lackadaisical attitudes toward safety, inadequate worker training and lax enforcement by regulators in the country's nuclear industry.

Workers at the JCO Co. plant in Tokaimura, about 80 miles northeast of Tokyo, were mixing uranium by hand in stainless steel buckets to save time. The ensuing nuclear reaction exposed as many as 150 people to radiation, according to the final report issued this month by Japan's Nuclear Safety Commission. One worker died from a lethal dose of radiation, and another remains hospitalized.

by das monde on Mon Apr 18th, 2011 at 02:47:37 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Interview: Specialist on Japan, the sociologist Paul Jobin has studied workplace conditions for workers in the nuclear industry...
...[a man of 48] lived 40 kilometers from the plant, and had been called by someone saying: "We are looking for people over fifty who could intervene in the reactor; the pay is much higher than usual."

You won't come? The wording "over fifty" suggests that in order to come work on the site, you must be ready to die ... Elsewhere, I read that there are locals who are willing to do the maximum because they do not want to see everything lost for thirty or for a thousand years to come. And this is already partly true [...]

Only the bosses are furnished with dosimeters. According to another worker present on that day, Friday the 11th, many simply went home carrying their dosimeter. TEPCO confirms that, due to the tsunami, a large number of dosimeters was damaged. Out of 5000, there remain no more than 320. The manufacturer has virtually no more stock, and Toshiba has sent them only 50.


In Japan, legislation has accommodated the standard of 20 mSv per year for workers, stipulating that the dose can be calculated as an average over a five year period, with a maximum of 100 mSv during any two years. But as of March 19, probably because they can not recruit enough people to intervene, TEPCO asked to boost the maximum dose to 150 mSv, and the Ministry of Health went further, raising it to 250 mSv -- this perhaps to limit the number of possible applications for recognition of occupational disease.

Meanwhile, TEPCO seeks 20% cut in employees' annual salaries

by das monde on Thu Apr 21st, 2011 at 01:39:30 AM EST
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