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Solar power industry gives opportunity for retraining coal workers for good alternative employment

An alternative to propping up coal power plants: Retrain workers for solar, The Conversation,Joshua M. Pearce, Professor of Materials Science and Engineering, and Electrical and Computer Engineering, Michigan Technological University, August 23, 2018The Trump administration announced new pollution rules for coal-fired power plants designed to keep existing coal power plants operating more and save American coal mining jobs.

Profitability for U.S. coal power plants has plummeted, and one major coal company after another has filed for bankruptcy, including the world’s largest private-sector coal company, Peabody Energy.

The main reason coal is in decline is less expensive natural gas and renewable energy like solar. Coal employment has dropped so low there are fewer than 53,000 coal miners in total in the U.S. (for comparison, the failing retailer J.C. Penny has about twice as many workers).

The EPA estimates the new rules will cause about 1,400 more premature deaths a year from coal-related air pollution by 2030. The Trump administration could avoid the premature American deaths from coal pollution – which amount to about 52,000 per year in total – and still help the coal miners themselves by retraining them for a more profitable industry, such as the solar industry.

study I co-authored analyzed the question of retraining current coal workers for employment in the solar industry. We found that this transition is feasible in most cases and would even result in better pay for nearly all of the current coal workers.

How to make the jump?

What is left of the coal mining industry represents a unique demographic compared to the rest of America. It is white (96.4 percent); male (96.2 percent); aging, with an average age of 43.8 years old; and relatively uneducated, with 76.7 percent having earned only a high school degree or equivalent. Many are highly skilled, however, with the largest sector of jobs being equipment operators at 27 percent. Many of these skills can be transferred directly into the solar industry.

In the study, we evaluated the skill sets of current coal workers and tabulated salaries. For each type of coal position, we determined the closest equivalent solar position and tried to match current coal salaries. We then quantified the time and investment required to retrain each worker.

Our results show there is a wide variety of employment opportunities in solar – the industry overall already employs more than five times more people than in coal mining, at over 250,000 by one industry group estimate. We also found the annual pay is generally better at all levels of education, even with the lowest-skilled jobs. For example, janitors in the coal industry could increase their salaries by 7 percent by becoming low-skilled mechanical assemblers in the solar industry.

Overall, we found that after retraining, technical workers (the vast majority) would make more money in the solar industry than they do in coal. Also note this study was about careers and was done before an uptick in the practice of hiring temporary coal workers. The only downside on salaries we found are that managers and particularly executives would make less in solar than coal. This represents only about 3.2 percent of coal workers that are professional administrators.

Retraining needs

How would coal workers make this transition? There are over 40 types of solar jobs which the DOE has mapped out. They range from entry-level jobs, such as installers, to more advanced positions in engineering and technical design. Most coal workers could not simply walk into a solar job; they would need some retraining. But certain positions require less training…………


September 8, 2018 Posted by | employment, renewable | Leave a comment

The economic pain of nuclear power station closures

Nuclear Plant Closures Bring Economic Pain to Cities and Towns, Pew, STATELINE ARTICLE, September 5, 2018, By: Martha T. Moore  “…….. Aging nuclear power plants are closing, doomed by the high cost of refurbishing them and the low price of natural gas. That is causing fiscal pain for municipalities that rely on revenue from the plants, and creating political pressure for state subsidies to forestall further shutdowns……….

Six reactors have shut down in the past five years, and eight more reactors are scheduled to close by 2025 at plants in California, Iowa, Massachusetts and Michigan. Nuclear power operators have said they will close a further five reactors at four plants in Ohio and Pennsylvania if those states don’t offer subsidies.

The closure of Indian Point, announced in January 2017, capped decades of controversy over its safety, and was a victory for environmental groups and Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who had long opposed the plant.

But the closure presents the local Hendrick-Hudson school district, where 2,500 children practice evacuation drills annually and nurses have iodide pills on hand in case of a radiation leak, with a budget crisis. About one-third of the district’s annual $79 million budget comes from Indian Point’s payment in lieu of taxes. By 2024, three years after the power plant huts, the yearly payments will have dwindled from $25 million to $1.35 million. ……..

Many nuclear power plants have curried public favor by being good corporate citizens. In Londonderry, for example, Three Mile Island runs a golf tournament for the local fire department that raises enough money to cover the $50,000 annual mortgage payment on the firehouse.

Redevelopment of Three Mile Island isn’t an option, Letavic said, because of the nuclear waste that will remain on the site, which is in the middle of the Susquehanna River……

In Lacey Township on the New Jersey shore, the nation’s oldest operating nuclear plant, Oyster Creek, will shut down in September after 49 years. The town gets $11 million in annual taxes from Oyster Creek and has identified itself so closely with the nuclear plant that its municipal seal bears the symbol of an atom as well as a sailboat and a pheasant. …….

Asking for State Help

Four states have moved to shore up nuclear power plants financially despite opposition from some environmental groups, consumer advocates and the coal and natural gas power industries.

In 2016, New York passed a $7.6 billion package to help three upstate nuclear power plants — though not Indian Point. And Illinois passed legislation directing $2.4 billion to two plants in the state through “zero emissions credits” 

…..In New Jersey, where 40 percent of the state’s electricity comes from nuclear plants, the state will subsidize two plants at a rate of $300 million a year under a bill enacted in May. (Oyster Creek was not included in the subsidy plan.) Connecticut enacted legislation last October that could allow its sole nuclear plant, the Millstone reactor in Waterford, to sell electricity at higher prices if Dominion Energy, its owner, can show the reactor is financially strapped. ………

As part of the nuclear subsidy packages, some states have increased requirements for obtaining power from renewable sources: New York and New Jersey will require half of their power to come from renewables by 2030, and Connecticut will require 40 percent by that date. Illinois will require a quarter of its power to come from renewables by 2025.

September 6, 2018 Posted by | business and costs, employment, USA | Leave a comment

The heat stroke threat affecting Fukushima nuclear clean-up workers

Leaving no stone unturned in heatstroke battle at nuclear plant HIROSHI ISHIZUKA/ Staff Writer  , 18 Aug 18  OKUMA, Fukushima Prefecture–How to avert a heatstroke is more pressing than usual in Japan this summer as the archipelago bakes in a record heat wave.

It’s not just sun-worshipers, children, the elderly and the infirm who should worry.

Spare a thought for the 5,000 or so workers who toil at the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant to get it ready for decommissioning.

They have to work outside in protective gear, with limited access to water and other resources.

At 5 a.m. on Aug. 6, a manager reminded a 20-strong group from IHI Plant Construction Co., which was contracted by Tokyo Electric Power Co., of the importance of adhering strictly to work rules.

“Please limit your efforts to shifts of less than 90 minutes,” the manager told the assembled workers in a lounge at the plant as he checked the complexion of each individual to gauge their health condition.

The workers are installing storage tanks for radioactive water that is accumulating at the plant.

They are not permitted to take food and beverages with them because of the risk of internal radiation exposure if the perishables are contaminated while they are working.

Water stations have been set up, but workers generally don’t bother to quench their thirst as it means they have to change out of their work gear to reach the sites.

During the morning meeting, the manager also checked each worker’s alcohol level and made sure that everybody had water from oral rehydration solution. After that, workers put a cold insulator in their vests and headed to the work site.

The Fukushima plant complex has about 900 tanks set up. IHI Plant Construction installed about 20 percent of them.

The workers’ primary responsibility in recent weeks is to inspect the condition of covers put in place to stop rainwater from accumulating around the tanks.

The workers are spared from the scorching sun as they work under cover, but coping with 90 to 95 percent humidity is a formidable challenge.

Junichi Ono, the head of the IHI Plant Construction’s task force assigned to the plant, said his company has tried to take every precaution against heatstroke.

“We need to pay attention because we work in a humid environment,” he said. “If a worker falls sick, we will lose valuable time taking that person to the doctor.”

According to TEPCO, 23 workers suffered heatstroke in the summer of 2011, shortly after the nuclear crisis unfolded at the plant.

Learning a lesson from that, workers were later instructed to start their tasks early in the morning and not work outdoors in principle between 2 p.m. and 5 p.m. in July and August, the hottest part of the day.

The “summer time” schedule appears to be paying off.

In fiscal 2014, the number of workers afflicted with heatstroke at the plant stood at 15.

It dropped to four in fiscal 2016, but went back up to six in fiscal 2017 despite it being a relatively cool summer that year.

Although this year’s heat wave is unprecedented, only four workers have suffered heatstroke at the plant this summer.

The Japan Meteorological Agency forecast blistering summer heat in the coming week after a respite this weekend.

August 20, 2018 Posted by | climate change, employment, Fukushima continuing | Leave a comment

Call to UN Human Rights Council to promote protection for workers from exposure to toxic substances,

In September, one of the UN experts, Baskut Tuncak, will present a report to the UN Human Rights Council, calling on States and employers to strengthen protection for workers from exposure to toxic substances, and proposing principles in that regard.  The UN experts: Mr. Baskut Tuncak, Special Rapporteur on the implications for human rights of the environmentally sound management and disposal of hazardous substances and wastes, Ms. Urmila Bhoola, Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of slavery, including its causes and consequences,and Mr. Dainius Puras, Special Rapporteur on the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health …

Special Procedures experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organization and serve in their individual capacity…”… […]

August 20, 2018 Posted by | 2 WORLD, employment | Leave a comment

U.S. Dept of Labor looks for nuclear workers eligible for compensation for radiation-caused illnesses

Government seeking nuclear workers who had radiation-caused cancers or their survivors,   | SundayAug. 5, 2018 

A federal program that has paid out more than $60 million to former Apollo area nuclear workers for radiation-related illnesses is looking for more former nuclear workers throughout the region who might be eligible for compensation.

The U.S. Department of Labor will hold an information meeting for former workers in the nuclear materials industry or their survivors on Aug. 22 from 9 a.m. noon and 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. at the Quality Inn in New Kensington.

There are about 14 work sites eligible in Southwestern Pennsylvania, including some steel mills and nuclear fuel processing plants.

Among them are the Nuclear Materials and Equipment Corp. (NUMEC) in Apollo and Parks Township, Westinghouse Atomic Power Development Plant in East Pittsburgh, Westinghouse Nuclear Fuels Division in Cheswick, and Aluminum Co. of America — Alcoa — in New Kensington.

The benefits proved helpful to deceased workers’ families to shore up medical expenses and the financial losses.

But it still doesn’t make up for the loss of a loved one.

“It just seems trivial — $150,000 for someone’s life, but it did help my mom out,” said Shellie Robertson, 57, Washington Township, whose father, John Grazetti, died in 2015 at the age of 74 from acute myeloid leukemia.

Grazetti, of Washington Township, was a NUMEC worker as was his father, John Grazetti Sr., who died of colon cancer and a brother who has recently been diagnosed with rectal cancer, according to Robertson.

All three men had cancers associated with exposures to radioactive substances encountered at work, and the compensation claims to the Labor Department by the three men have been accepted.

“My dad said he would probably die of cancer,” Robertson said. “He knew.”

Grazetti, who worked at NUMEC for about 20 years, didn’t talk much about his job, according to his daughter.

All the family knew what that he was foreman and worked with chemicals. However, Robertson did recall her father having to submit urine samples for the company to test for what is now known as radiation over-exposures.

Near the end of his life, Robertson started to hear NUMEC stories when her dad and uncle would talk.

“They would have to clean up stuff, spray down the walls. I remember the soles of my father’s shoes being eaten away from the stuff he was walking in.”

Paid out so far: $15 billion

To date, the program has paid more than $129.3 million in compensation and medical benefits to 1,138 claimants living in Pennsylvania and more than $15.2 billion nationwide, according to the Labor Department.

The government established the Energy Employees Occupational Illness Compensation Act (EEOICPA) in 2000 to pay sick nuclear workers a lump sum of $150,000 and coverage of related medical expenses.

The program pays people who became ill because of working for a private business subcontracted by the federal government to develop and produce components for nuclear weapons.

Generally, eligible workers must have worked a certain amount of time and developed one of 22 cancers designated by the program and or other illnesses. The benefit also is payable to families of deceased workers.

The Labor Department has visited the area before and is visiting again because there still might be workers or their families still eligible for the benefit.

In Pennsylvania, most of the nuclear workers covered by the program were employed in the 1960s and 1970s.

It’s difficult to say how many more workers could be eligible for the program, but they could number in the hundreds, according to estimates provided by an EEOICPA program official several years ago.

Mary Ann Thomas is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Mary Ann at 724-226-4691, or via Twitter @MaThomas_Trib.

August 6, 2018 Posted by | employment, health, USA | Leave a comment

Renewable Energy Now Employs 10.3 Million People Globally   10 May 18The renewable energy industry employs 10.3 million people worldwide, according to new data from the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA). And the sector is growing rapidly, adding more than 500,000 jobs last year alone, an increase of 5.3 percent from 2016, PV Magazine reported.

The solar industry accounts for the largest share of jobs in renewable energy, with nearly 3.4 million people employed in research, production, installation and maintenance of solar panels — an increase of 9 percent from 2016. The solar sector is followed by liquid biofuels, with 1.9 million jobs, and hydropower, with 1.5 million. The IRENA report finds that employment in the global wind industry decreased slightly from 2016 to 2017, shrinking to 1.15 million. China is home to 65 percent of the world’s solar jobs, and 43 percent of all renewable energy jobs. Due to the region’s robust manufacturing sector, four-fifths of all renewable energy jobs are located in Asia.

“The data underscores an increasingly regionalized picture, highlighting that in countries where attractive policies exist, the economic, social and environmental benefits of renewable energy are most evident,” said Adnan Z. Amin, director general of IRENA.

May 11, 2018 Posted by | 2 WORLD, employment, renewable | Leave a comment

UK: Many cops guarding nuclear weapons found to be unfit

Daily Record 30th April 2018 , Dozens of elite gun cops tasked with protecting Britain’s nuclear weapons
at Faslane and other military sites are too unfit to carry firearms, it
emerged yesterday. A shocking report into the Ministry of Defence Police
reveals “concern” at the growing number who have been sidelined. The
crisis has emerged after tougher fitness tests equal to those taken by
other armed officers were introduced. Some MoD police – whose jobs include
guarding the nuclear submarine fleet at Faslane, SAS headquarters in
Hereford and GCHQ’s Cheltenham base – have failed the new tests. Others
have simply refused to take part, the Mail on Sunday reported.

May 2, 2018 Posted by | employment, UK | Leave a comment

America’s mounting piles of plutonium cores – to be removed, perilously, by contract workers

Reuters 20th April 2018 , In a sprawling plant near Amarillo, Texas, rows of workers perform by hand
one of the most dangerous jobs in American industry. Contract workers at
the U.S. Department of Energy’s Pantex facility gingerly remove the
plutonium cores from retired nuclear warheads. Although many safety rules
are in place, a slip of the hand could mean disaster.

In Energy Department facilities around the country, there are 54 metric tons of surplus
plutonium. Pantex, the plant near Amarillo, holds so much plutonium that it
has exceeded the 20,000 cores, called “pits,” regulations allow it to
hold in its temporary storage facility. There are enough cores there to
cause thousands of megatons of nuclear explosions. More are added each day.

April 22, 2018 Posted by | - plutonium, employment, USA | Leave a comment

Washington State to give more help to sick Hanford nuclear workers and former workers

Help on the way for ill Hanford workers  Tri City Herald,  March 07, 2018 

March 9, 2018 Posted by | employment, health, USA, wastes | Leave a comment

Progress in getting compensation for sick Hanford nuclear workers and ex-workers

Hanford atomic workers get state legislative boost for workers’ comp   February 9, 2018 CST  BY MARK GRUENBERG  HANFORD, Wash.—This is a good-news story. It involves a persistent union legislative director, a favorable election outcome, and bipartisan and cross-chamber cooperation in the Washington State legislature.

And the beneficiaries are and will be hundreds, if not thousands, of workers exposed to some of the most dangerous materials known to humans.

The workers are present workers and retirees, at the Department of Energy’s nuclear complex in Hanford, Wash. And as a result of all those factors, they’ll be more eligible for workers’ comp.

The story starts in 1942-43, says Nick Bumpaous of Plumbers and Steamfitters Local 598, located near the complex. That’s when the U.S. War Department took over the Hanford area to build the factory complex to make nuclear warheads for U.S. bombs. Hanford, like the whole Manhattan Project for developing atomic weapons, was top secret.

The feds, to their credit, realized Hanford’s workers would be in constant daily contact with uranium, plutonium and other highly radioactive materials. Who knew what would happen to them in later years due to those exposures?

“In the 1940s, the War Department got into a contract with the state legislature to have workers use Washington’s industrial insurance for workers’ comp claims if they got ill from handling the radioactive material,” Bumpaous said in a phone interview. “The feds would reimburse the state for any claims.”

The catch was when sickened workers went to their doctors, the doctors “couldn’t tell what the illnesses were” – because Hanford was secret – “so they couldn’t give you medication,” much less OK workers’ comp claims.

Common diseases among the Hanford workers include various cancers, according to a fact sheet for a later federal workers comp program for federal nuclear workers nationwide. The Steelworkers, who now represent many of those nuke workers, lobbied for and won the federal program. It began in 2001, with a second part added in 2004. But it caps lifetime benefits at $250,000, plus medical expenses.

“But you still put the burden of proof” upon the worker to show his or her toil at Hanford and exposure to the fissile materials there caused those ills, not to mention exposure to other threats, Bumpaous says.

One example: Exposure to diethyl mercury, “a silent odorless, colorless, tasteless stuff that induces neurological diseases and dementia.” In addition, “you have a whole generation of people with reactive airway disease,” he adds.

The doctors couldn’t diagnose the reasons for Hanford ills. The workers became so ill they couldn’t work and had to leave their jobs, “so they’re not getting a paycheck and they had no health insurance.” They had to navigate the bureaucracy “and their claims were denied,” Bumpaous explains. Workers’ comp denials at Hanford were 52 percent above average.

“It’s hard enough to take care of yourself when you’re battling the Department of Energy,” which now runs Hanford “and the state Department of Labor and Industry,” which runs workers’ comp, Bumpaous says.

With the burden of proof on the workers, Bumpaous got into the picture. Two years ago, he read about legislation the Fire Fighters successfully pushed elsewhere, shifting the burden of proof for certain diseases – known to be caused by Fire Fighter exposure to asbestos and other dangers on the job – from the worker to the state.

In short, if a Fire Fighter goes to the doctor with asbestosis, the doctor must presume the worker caught it from on-the-job exposure and is eligible for workers’ comp. Bumpaous wanted to create the same scenario for the Hanford workers. Workers and retirees still must go to the doctors, though.

“These brave workers continue to be exposed to some of the most hazardous substances known to man, including many chemical and radiological hazards as yet unidentified, and the safety measures intended to protect them are inadequate,” wrote David Groves in The Stand, the Washington State Labor Council’s online newspaper, which first reported the legislation.

But the Hanford workers couldn’t get workers comp because they had to “connect specific exposures to their disease — a virtually impossible task given the” top secret “circumstances at Hanford.”

Bumpaous enlisted two lawmakers to push the measure shifting the burden of proof from the workers to the state: State Rep. Larry Haler, R-Richland, and State Sen. Karen Keiser, D-Kent, a longtime pro-worker advocate, who is now state Senate President Pro Tem and chair of the state Senate’s Labor Committee. Haler’s district includes Hanford.

And that’s where the political switch comes in. When Bumpaous, Haler and Keiser first tried to get their bill, HB1723, through, it passed the House, then died in the Senate, which the GOP controlled by one vote. Republican leaders wouldn’t even let it get out of committee.

But earlier this year, Manka Dhingra, a Democratic pro-worker woman with strong union backing, won a special election for an open State Senate seat. Control switched, Keiser took over – and the legislation for the Hanford workers sailed through: 76-22 in the House and 35-14 in the Senate.

“It’s important we take care of workers who suffered due to being exposed to harmful chemicals and processes at Hanford,” Haler said. “Despite all the safety precautions, families and individuals have been devastated by illness and disease. They need help. This will help make that easier,” Haler said after HB1723 headed for Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee’s desk.

“Exposure to heavy metal and radiation has ruined people’s lives,” Keiser told the Senate before passage.

“I cannot think of a more suitable assertion for this Senate to make than putting our partisan differences aside to put people first. We are seeing people dying from dementia, cancer and lung disease who were systematically left out of workers compensation.”

“People went bankrupt paying for cancer treatments. This ordeal has been going on since the 1990s. We have seen a whole generation impacted by this tragedy. That is not right. Our Washington community cares about protecting all workers.”

Inslee is expected to sign the bill. But that’s not the end of the story for Bumpaous. “I want to see everyone get these benefits” nationwide if they worked in nuclear weapons and warhead production, he says. “That way we won’t have this type of stuff in the future.”


February 10, 2018 Posted by | employment, health, USA | Leave a comment

The dangerous job of specialist scuba divers hauling radioactive trash out of Sizewell nuclear fuel storage pond

NDA 1st Feb 2018, Specialist scuba divers are plumbing new depths to haul radioactive waste
out of the nuclear fuel storage pond at Sizewell A. The team of American
underwater experts tackled their first UK ‘nuclear dive’ at Dungeness A
in 2016 where, wearing full protective suits and shielded from radiation by
the water, they were able to cut up empty fuel storage skips and retrieve
other pieces of submerged equipment.

The ponds were used to store thousands
of used nuclear fuel rods, held in metal skips, after they were discharged
from the reactors. After the last of the fuel was transported to Sellafield
for reprocessing, the skips and a range of redundant items, including
sludge, were left behind in the water.

Pond clean-out conventionally takes
place using remotely operated equipment to lift the whole radioactive skips
clear of the water, exposing them to the air, where they are carefully cut
up before decontamination, storage and eventual disposal. This process is
slow with potential radiation dose risks for workers. By doing the work
under water, the divers can cut up the skips more safely, access awkward
areas more easily, making the whole process safer, faster and more

February 3, 2018 Posted by | employment, UK, wastes | Leave a comment

Trump tax bill promotes polluting robots – and damages clean energy workers

Polluting robots win big, clean energy workers get screwed in Trump tax bill By Joe Romm on 7 December 2017

Think Progress  Polluting robots of the world, unite! The GOP tax bill is for you.

The rest of us, however, have a lot to lose from GOP tax changes that favor investments in dirty energy over clean — and robots over human workers.

As one MIT economist told Newsweek, “We are creating huge subsidies in our tax code for capital and encouraging employers to use machines instead of labor.” And unless significant changes are made in the GOP plan, those machines will be running on dirty energy.

 Last month, I discussed how the House tax bill targets key solar and wind energy tax credits that have helped make clean energy a crucial high-wage job-creating sector in the United States.

The good news is that the Senate tax bill doesn’t roll back those renewable energy tax credits.

The bad news is that it contains language that could seriously undermine the investment in renewables by imposing “a new 100 percent tax” on those credits, as Gregory Wetstone, head of the American Council on Renewable Energy, explained in a statement.

“If this bill passes as drafted, major financial institutions would no longer participate in tax equity financing, which is the principal mechanism for monetizing credits,” Wetstone pointed out.

“Almost overnight, you would see a devastating reduction in wind and solar energy investment and development.” Meanwhile, tax subsidies for fossil fuels, many of which are decades old, would continue unchanged–and the Senate bill opens up the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to drilling.

This type of clean energy financing will reach $12 billion this year, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance, which examined the impact of this change in detail.

This investment, much of it by multinational finance companies, has helped leveraged some $50 billion a year in U.S. wind and solar projects, creating hundreds of thousands of jobs.

Ironically — or, rather, tragically — harming renewables mostly harms red states. As “The American Prospect” noted, “The states that voted for Trump produce nearly 70 percent of wind energy, while 85 percent of existing wind projects are in GOP-held congressional districts.”

As for longer-term impacts, the GOP plan would cut billions of dollars in incentives for  the biggest new source of sustainable high-wage employment in the world — clean energy — just as China and the rest of the world are making massive investments.

What’s unknown at this point is how these and other changes to these tax credits will be dealt with in the final bill, after the House and Senate work out their differences. While the House plan to gut the credits was intentional, it’s not clear that Senators intended to undermine them, so the problem is fixable.

 One thing that was very intentional was the “full and immediate expensing of equipment purchases” provision. This would let companies deduct from their taxes the full cost of some types of investments, such as new industrial equipment, that are currently only allowed a 50 percent deduction.

This change would occur just when companies are beginning to automate their factories using robots and advanced computing technology, as corporate tax attorney Robert Kovacev, explained to Huffington Post: “It’s going to accelerate spending, basically, on robots that could displace workers.”

The GOP plan naturally has no tax incentives to encourage businesses to hire more actual workers or to retrain those who lose their job due to automation

Indeed, the Senate bill is so bad that Bloomberg’s editors wrote a piece explaining “Republicans have managed to make a terrible plan worse.” As one example the equipment-expensing provision would take effect immediately, but the Senate only lowers the corporate tax rate to 20 percent (from 35) in 2019.

“This will allow businesses to take deductions on investments while rates are high, then pay a lower rate on the resulting income, creating a perverse incentive to pursue otherwise unprofitable projects,” explains Bloomberg.

So the Senate bill actually encourages companies to replace workers even with unprofitable robots.

Unprofitable polluting robots — quite a legacy for the disastrous GOP tax plan.

December 7, 2017 Posted by | employment, technology, USA | Leave a comment

Risk of Chernobyl sarcophagus collapsing – radiation danger to workers now sealing it

Vice News 5th Dec 2017, Workers at the Chernobyl Power Plant are now facing some of the highest
radiation levels ever while they put the finishing touches on a new
decontamination structure for the world’s worst nuclear disaster. After
the fallout in 1986, workers at the plant built a sarcophagus to contain
the radiation in just three months.

But it was just a quick fix, designed
without future decontamination in mind. And now, after more than 30 years,
it’s at risk of collapse. Workers are sealing the old structure with a
new one they finished building a year ago, called the New Safe Confinement.
They hope it will hold for the next 100 years.

December 7, 2017 Posted by | employment, Ukraine | Leave a comment

America’s “overkill” with nuclear weapons – but Trump still wants more

The Sway of the Nuclear Arms Industry Over Donald Trump and Congress Is Terrifying
“The devastation is very important to me.”  Mother Jones his story originally appeared on……… in every sense of the term, our nuclear arsenal already represents overkill on an almost unimaginable scale. Independent experts from US war colleges suggest that about 300 warheads would be more than enough to deter any country from launching a nuclear attack on the United States.It may not surprise you to learn that there’s nothing new about the influence the nuclear weapons lobby has over Pentagon spending priorities. The successful machinations of the makers of strategic bombers and intercontinental ballistic missiles, intended to keep tax dollars flowing their way, date back to the dawn of the nuclear age and are the primary reason President Dwight D. Eisenhower coined the term “military-industrial complex” and warned of its dangers in his 1961 farewell address.

Without the development of such weapons, that complex simply would not exist in its present form. The Manhattan Project, the vast endeavor that produced the first workable nukes during World War II, was one of the largest government-funded research and manufacturing projects in history. Today’s nuclear warhead complex is still largely built around facilities and locations dating back to that time…….

Eisenhower couldn’t have been more clear-eyed about all of this. He saw the missile gap for the fiction it was or, as he put it, a “useful piece of political demagoguery” for his opponents. “Munitions makers,” he insisted, “are making tremendous efforts towards getting more contracts and in fact seem to be exerting undue influence over the senators.”

 Once Kennedy took office, it became all too apparent that there was no missile gap, but by then it hardly mattered. The damage had been done. Billions of dollars more were flowing into the nuclear-industrial complex to build up an American arsenal of ICBMs already unmatched on the planet.

The techniques that the arms lobby and its allies in government used more than half a century ago to promote sky-high nuclear weapons spending continue to be wielded to this day. The 21st-century arms complex employs tools of influence that Kennedy and his compatriots would have found familiar indeed—including millions of dollars in campaign contributions that flow to members of Congress and the continual employment of 700 to 1,000 lobbyists to influence them; that’s nearly two arms lobbyists for every member of Congress. Much of this sort of activity remains focused on ensuring that nuclear weapons of all types are amply financed and that the funding for the new generations of the bombers, submarines, and missiles that will deliver them stays on track.

When traditional lobbying methods don’t get the job done, the industry’s argument of last resort is jobs—in particular, jobs in the states and districts of key members of Congress. This process is aided by the fact that nuclear weapons facilities are spread remarkably widely across the country There are labs in California and New Mexico; a testing and research site in Nevada; a warhead assembly and disassembly plant in Texas; a factory in Kansas City, Missouri, that builds nonnuclear parts for such weapons; and a plant in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, that produces weapon-grade uranium. There are factories or bases for ICBMs, bombers, and ballistic missile submarines in Connecticut, Georgia, Washington State, California, Ohio, Massachusetts, Louisiana, North Dakota, and Wyoming. Such a nuclear geography ensures that a striking number of congressional representatives will automatically favor more spending on nuclear weapons.

In reality, the jobs argument is deeply flawed. As the experts know, virtually any other activity into which such funding flowed would create significantly more jobs than Pentagon by economists at the University of Massachusetts, for example, found infrastructure investment would create one and one-half times as many jobs as Pentagon funding and education spending twice as many.

In most cases it hasn’t seemed to matter that the jobs claims for weapons spending are grotesquely exaggerated and better alternatives litter the landscape. The argument remains remarkably potent in states and communities that are particularly dependent on the Pentagon. Perhaps unsurprisingly, members of Congress from such areas are disproportionately represented on the committees that decide how much will be spent on nuclear and conventional weaponry……….

November 20, 2017 Posted by | employment, USA | Leave a comment

What It’s Like for Informal Labour Employed in Nuclear Power Stations in Japan

Informal Labour, Local Citizens and the Tokyo Electric Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Crisis: Responses to Neoliberal Disaster Management, ANU, Adam Broinowski, 7 Nov 17,  

Sworn to secrecy,12 after a superficial safety education drill, they are sent into highly contaminated, hot and wet labyrinthine areas.

Irregular workers’ oral contracts with tehaishi are often illegal or dangerous, and are sometimes imposed on workers through threats or use of force.

Over the past 40 years, poor monitoring and record-keeping has meant that many former nuclear workers who develop leukaemia and other illnesses have been denied government compensation due to their lawyers’ inability to prove the etiological link between their disease and employment.

Informal Labour, Local Citizens and the Tokyo Electric Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Crisis: Responses to Neoliberal Disaster Management, ANU, Adam Broinowski, 7 Nov 17,  “…

Conditions for Informal Labour Employed in Nuclear Power Stations  The phenomenon of assembling and recruiting a relatively unskilled labour pool at the cheapest rate possible is typical in nearly all of Japan’s large-scale modern industrial projects in the 20th century. As early as the late 19th century, however, non-criminal homeless men were recruited for such projects, whether forced, coerced or voluntarily from the major day-labourer (hiyatoi rōdōsha 日雇い労働者) sites (yoseba) established in Sanya (Tokyo), Kotobuki (Yokohama), Kamagasaki (Osaka) and Sasashima (Nagoya). In pre–World War II and wartime Japan, yakuza tehaishi (手配師 labour recruiters) operated forced labour camps known as takobeya (たこ部屋 octopus rooms) for Korean and Chinese labourers who had been transported to work mainly in coal mines and on construction sites.6………

The rapid build of nuclear power stations was planned in the 1960s by a consortium of major investment banks, electric utilities and construction companies and/or industry manufacturers (Mitsubishi, Tōshiba, Hitachi, Sumitomo, etc.), and was carried out in the 1970s, with increased momentum in response to the oil crisis of 1974–76. Through an intensive ‘regional development’ program of rural industrialisation from the early 1970s, politically disempowered communities were targeted as potential cheap labour as their environs were designated as sites for nuclear projects by investment capital. In a combination of regulatory capture and economic dependency, utilities moved in to provide employment opportunities to communities while the same communities steadily lost control over their resources and subsistence economies. In the process, they lost political agency as their political representatives often received corporate and state inducements for these projects. As TEPCO owns the electricity distribution system in Fukushima Prefecture, which includes hydroelectric and thermal power stations as well as nuclear, and is a major employer and investor in Fukushima Prefecture,10 it has considerable sway in the political process as well as over electricity bills.

By the early 1980s, irregular workers came to comprise nearly 90 per cent of all nuclear workers.11 As nuclear reactors grow increasingly contaminated and corroded by radiation over time, informal labour became fodder for regular maintenance, cleaning, repairing and/or venting and refuelling of these nuclear reactors to reduce exposures to permanent company employees such as scientists and engineers. As the power station must be halted during the maintenance period, this period equates to a lack of production and profitability and is kept to a bare minimum by the operators, an approach that led to a litany of safety oversights and accidents.

Although provided less training, informal nuclear workers are paid higher over a shorter employment period than regular workers, whose insurance is taken out of their wage. Sworn to secrecy,12 after a superficial safety education drill, they are sent into highly contaminated, hot and wet labyrinthine areas. Their work includes scrubbing contaminated areas, installing shields to reduce exposure for skilled workers, decontaminating and repairing pipes and tanks, welding, transporting contaminated materials and waste, washing contaminated uniforms and tools, removing filters and clearing garbage, inspecting gauges in high-level areas, dispersing chemicals over nuclear waste piles, pouring high-level liquid waste into drums and mopping up waste water. Although radioprotection regulations have been tightened in the last decade, working conditions for irregular workers have not necessarily improved and, without sufficient information about radiation danger, they can still be exposed to over 1 millisievert (mSv) of external radiation within minutes in high concentration areas and accumulate large amounts of internal radiation.13

Since 3.11, invoking the International Commission on Radiological Protection’s (ICRPs) often-used ALARA (as low as reasonably allowable) principle to justify this regulatory contingency, the state also raised nuclear workers’ limits from no more than 50 mSv per year (mSv/y) and 100 mSv/5 years to 250 mSv/y to deal with emergency conditions, and determined that there would be no follow-up health treatment for those exposed to doses below 50 mSv/y, while TEPCO decided to not record radiation levels below 2 mSv/y in the misplaced justification that the effects would be negligible. In December 2011, ‘cold shutdown’ was (erroneously) declared and the workers’ limit was returned to 100 mSv/5 years. It will likely be raised again as the government expedites decommissioning to meet its estimated completion by 2030–2050.14 Although very few regular workers’ cumulative doses exceeded 20 mSv/y in any year prior to 3.11, by June 2015 the official number rose to 6,64215 with doses of irregular nuclear workers often un(der)counted.

In a fast-track 40-year plan to decommission Fukushima Daiichi (i.e. removing the cores and dismantling the plant), as of August 2015 roughly 45,000 irregular workers (‘front-line’ workers, or ‘nuclear gypsies’) had been assembled at the J-Village Iwaki-Naraha soccer stadium before entering the sites. As well as jobs at the power stations, they work on decontamination and construction sites throughout the prefecture, which include those designated for the 2020 Olympics, a new school in Futaba (the town nearest to FDNPS), a large centre for radiation monitoring, a large research and training institute for reactor decommissioning, and a giant sea wall for tsunami prevention (see also Chapter Five). Yakuza-linked labour brokers (tehaishi/ninpu-dashi), eager to profit from the post-3.11 decommissioning budget (conservatively estimated at $150 billion), use social media and oral contracts to recruit these workers from the most vulnerable populations for ‘clean up’ work.16 In this customary cascade of diluted responsibility, their original wage and conditions are skimmed or cut away (pinhane sareta ピンハネされた) by contractors (roughly 733 companies) so that some irregular workers receive as little as 6,000 yen per day and only a very small fraction of the 10,000 yen per day in danger money promised by the Ministry of the Environment (MoE) and TEPCO.17

Irregular workers’ oral contracts with tehaishi are often illegal or dangerous, and are sometimes imposed on workers through threats or use of force.18 In addition, the day labourer may become indebted to tehaishi for housing and/or loans for lifestyle dependencies (i.e. gambling, drugs, prostitution). As products of structural discrimination, itinerant and/or irregular workers who are already socially isolated may find it difficult to build support networks, whether through marriage, family or solid friendships. Obligated within a semi-legal economy and stripped of rights and protections, each worker is pitted against the other, young and old, stronger and weaker, individual and family man, for basic survival.

Over the past 40 years, poor monitoring and record-keeping has meant that many former nuclear workers who develop leukaemia and other illnesses have been denied government compensation due to their lawyers’ inability to prove the etiological link between their disease and employment. For example, the death of Yoshida Masao (58), the Fukushima Daiichi manager who was among the ‘Fukushima 50’ who remained at the plant to manage the nuclear meltdowns in their critical phase and who developed oesophagal cancer in 2013, was not recognised by TEPCO as related to radiation exposure from Fukushima Daiichi as the cancer was deemed to have developed too quickly after the initial accident.

Irregular nuclear workers have commonly relied on permanent employees to monitor, record and calibrate their doses. Denied sufficient information about radiation exposure risks, and preferring not to jeopardise their contracts and provoke physical intimidation if they complain about their conditions, many collude with company officers (who record their accumulated doses) to camouflage and underestimate their dose rates (particularly for internal doses). This allows them to extend their time and contracts at nuclear plants before they are deemed to have reached (or exceeded) the maximum annual dose limit (50 mSv/y).19 When a nuclear worker is diagnosed with abnormalities in a routine check-up, some subcontractors may falsify nuclear workers’ passbooks.20 Despite the long lives of internalised radionuclides, it has been customary either not to measure this properly and/or to simply reset the dose record at the end of each financial year.

While protective clothing and procedures have grown more stringent for nuclear workers, especially after some workers died and fell ill from heat-related causes, irregular workers remain far less protected.22 At Fukushima Daiichi, where crews are overworked and understaffed, irregular workers often commit errors leading to cases of serious injury and large leaks of radioactive materials into the environment. This is further compounded by the lack of understanding or recognition of chronic illnesses in either permanent or irregular nuclear workers. This has sometimes led to poorly explained deaths of nuclear workers.23

In October 2015, a welder in his late 30s and father of three from Kita-Kyushu became the first worker in four years to be awarded workers’ insurance payments (medical costs and loss of income for temporary disability) while three more cases remained undecided. He was diagnosed with acute myelogenous leukaemia after having accumulated 19.8 mSv/y from exposure to a radiation leak and one year’s work at Fukushima Daiichi (Reactors 3 and 4) and the Genkai nuclear plant (Kyushu) (both of which use MOX fuel).24 While compensation was recognised under nuclear workers’ compensation insurance legislation (1976), the Health Ministry maintained that a causal link between illness and employment remains to be scientifically proven. After the delayed report by TEPCO of 1,973 workers exposed to over 100 mSv/y by mid-2013, by August 2015 21,000 of the 45,000 irregular workers had been exposed to over 5 mSv/y and 9,000 workers to over 20 mSv/y.25 TEPCO and the central government would certainly be worried about a spike in compensation claims.

Without a proper health regime, the permanent damage incurred by irregular nuclear workers far outweighs the value of their cheap labour power. With their use as filters as they move to each plant, as nuclear workers grow older and sicker they become less able to commodify their labour and are unlikely to receive proper treatment and/or compensation (due to insufficient data and high radiation safety limits among other things). Although the endless production of labour willing to take on this dangerous work and the devolution of responsibility and ambiguity around radiation health effects are used to justify the continuation of these practices, if workers are knowingly placed in harmful conditions the employer is in breach of a duty of care under the Labour Standards Law. As byproducts of a discriminatory industrial labour system, these irregular nuclear workers and their families, like many elsewhere, are deprived of basic rights to health and well-being. As one labourer stated in relation to Fukushima Daiichi: ‘TEPCO is God. The main contractors are kings, and we are slaves’.26 In short, Fukushima Daiichi clearly illustrates the social reproduction, exploitation and disposability of informal labour, in the state protection of capital, corporations and their assets….

November 11, 2017 Posted by | employment, Japan, Reference | Leave a comment