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Eight years after Fukushima nuclear meltdown, workers still facing radiation risk

Workers at the Fukushima plant still don’t know how long they have to stay behind cleaning up the mess from the 2011 nuclear meltdown.
February 22, 2019
TEPCO officials recently said to Akahata that high-risk zones in the Fukushima Daiichi plant have become smaller and that now workers do not need to wear a full-face mask and a protective suit in 96 percent of the plant premises. This is because the level of radioactive materials in the air has decreased as a larger area of the site is now covered with concrete, according to officials. At the crippled nuclear power plant, the number of workers coping with the aftermath of the 2011 nuclear accident, though, is still more than 4,000 per day.
However, the hidden reality regarding contamination risks seems to differ from the impression the utility wanted to create by citing the figure “96 percent.” In a recently published survey of Fukushima workers conducted by TEPCO, of the respondents who are anxious about their exposure to radiation, nearly half feared that their health would be damaged in the future. In another question in the same survey, more than 40 percent were concerned about working at the nuclear power plant.
The most common reason for their concern was that they have no idea how long they need to work at the plant because it is unclear how much work remains to be done. They are also worried about the risk of radiation-induced health damage in the future with no guarantee of a stable income. Without a worker-friendly environment, the decommissioning of the crippled reactors will be extremely time-consuming.
The storage of radiation-contaminated water is another major issue. Around 100-150 tons of polluted water is produced every day at the plant, which means that a 1,000-ton tank is filled up in seven to ten days. Currently, around 1.1 million tons of radioactive water are stored on the plant premises, but under TEPCO’s plan, the maximum planned storage capacity is only 1.37 million tons.
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March 1, 2019 Posted by | fukushima 2019 | , , | 1 Comment

Fukushima: UN says cleanup workers in danger of ‘exploitation’


UN human rights experts have said the workers, most of them migrants, risked “exposure to radiation and coercion.” They have called on Japan to protect the workers cleaning up the damaged nuclear power station.



Tens of thousands of cleanup workers at the damaged Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power station risk exploitation, UN human rights experts said in a statement on Thursday.

The three experts, who report to the UN Human Rights Council, warned that exposure to radiation remained a major risk for workers handling the cleanup of the plant.

“Workers hired to decontaminate Fukushima reportedly include migrant workers, asylum-seekers and people who are homeless,” said the three: Baskut Tuncak, an expert on hazardous substances, Dainius Puras, an expert on health, and Urmila Bhoola, an expert on contemporary slavery.

“We are deeply concerned about possible exploitation. The workers risk exposure to unhealthy levels of radiation not only because they work in places with high radiation but also because they work for longer hours than they should,” Tuncak told DW after the statement was released.

“They are not sufficiently trained, which exposes them to serious health risks. Also, most of them are economically vulnerable, who may not turn down the job despite hazardous working conditions,” he said.

Tuncak added that the team’s observations were based on “repeated and reliable” reports.

Read moreJapan’s TEPCO nuclear plant restarts fear of new Fukushima

Poor working conditions

TEPCO, the owner of the nuclear power station, which was damaged by a tsunami in 2011, has faced criticism for its treatment of workers involved in the cleanup, which is expected to take decades.

In July, a survey conducted by the Japanese Justice Ministry showed that four construction companies had hired foreign trainees for radioactive decontamination work at the plant.

The survey found that one of the four companies paid only 2,000 yen ($18, €16) per day to the trainees, a fraction of the 6,600 yen provided by the government as a special allowance for decontamination work.

An investigation by Reuters news agency in 2013 also found widespread labor abuses, including workers who said their pay was skimmed.

Japan must act

The UN experts called on Japanese authorities to act urgently to protect the workers.

“The government must conduct greater oversights. In cases of wrongdoing, it must prosecute the wrongdoers to set an example for others,” Tuncak said.

“The government must also allow independent experts to visit Fukushima to review the existing work conditions.”

Tuncak said Japan has not responded to several of his and other experts’ requests to visit the damaged nuclear station.

Japan dismisses UN claims

On Friday, Japan’s Foreign Ministry rejected the UN’s accusations and said the statement could unnecessarily spark worries and confusion, the Kyodo News agency reported.

“It’s regrettable, as the statement is based on one-sided allegations that could exacerbate the suffering of people in the disaster-hit areas,” the ministry said.  “We properly handled problematic cases in the past and do not regard
it as a situation which requires any urgent response,” an unnamed official at the Health, Labour and Welfare Ministry told Kyodo.

August 22, 2018 Posted by | Fukushima 2018 | , , , , | Leave a comment

Only 35% of Fukushima Daiichi workers tested


March 6, 2018
NHK has learned that only 35 percent of workers who responded to the March 2011 nuclear accident at Fukushima Daiichi plant have been checked for long-term effects of radiation.
A Japanese government-affiliated research organization began conducting the radiation-exposure screenings 4 years ago. Some 20,000 workers who entered the plant within 9 months of the accident are to undergo life-long monitoring that includes blood tests and thyroid exams.
During the nuclear crisis, many plant workers were exposed to radiation beyond the government limit of 100 millisieverts. The government then temporarily raised the limit to 250 millisieverts so that work could continue.
The Radiation Effects Research Foundation aims to conduct regular screenings on at least 80 percent of those workers. But it says that as of January this year, it has only been able to check about 7,000 people.
Of the workers who remain untested, 35 percent have ignored calls to take a screening, 17 percent have refused to comply, and 8.5 percent cannot be reached.
Several non-participants have told NHK they cannot take days off from work, or that there are too few clinics where they can be tested.
Some were skeptical about the screenings, saying they doubt a checkup would help keep them healthy.
Tomotaka Sobue, a professor at Osaka University, was a member of a government panel that assessed the screening program.
He says the government has a responsibility to confirm whether people who took part in emergency work are facing any health risks.
He says efforts must be made to inform workers about the program, and to make it easier for them to take the tests.

March 7, 2018 Posted by | Fukushima 2018 | , , , | Leave a comment

Less protective gear at Fukushima Daiichi

The operator of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant plans to make it easier for workers engaged in decommissioning efforts nearly 5 years after the accident. They will gradually be able to work without wearing protective gear or gloves in areas with low radiation.

NHK has learned that Tokyo Electric Power Company is to introduce the new measure early next month for about 90 percent of the facility.

Radiation readings near the ground in these areas were 5 microsieverts per hour or less as of December. The figures went down after the operator removed contaminated soil and paved the surface.

TEPCO will increase in stages the number of workers wearing only regular work clothing.

The utility now requires each worker to wear protective gear and 2 pairs of gloves. This is preventing them from moving around smoothly and from carrying out precision work.

The policy will continue for people working near the reactor buildings and around tanks that contain highly radioactive water.

TEPCO plans to notify workers and tighten controls so that they do not approach these areas without wearing protective gear.

February 25, 2016 Posted by | Fukushima 2016 | , , , | Leave a comment