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Touching from a Distance: The workers of Fukushima Daiichi

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A hill looks out over Unit 2 (left) and Unit 3.
By Andrew Deck | Posted on September 28, 2018
Our tour van came to a stop in the pass between the Unit 2 and 3 reactors. The gap, once consumed by radioactive rubble, had been cleared several months before our visit to the Fukushima Daiichi plant in June. “You’ll have 10 minutes outside before we move onto the next location,” our guide announced to the vehicle, a portable Geiger counter in hand. We buckled our construction helmets, tightened the strings of our face masks and stepped out onto the open road. The Pacific coast was no more than 200 meters in front of us and on either side were nuclear reactor buildings. While Unit 2 was weathered but structurally intact, Unit 3 showed visible scars from the explosion it had suffered seven years earlier, marked by protruding support beams and fractured cement walls.
Since our day began at the edge of the exclusion zone in Tomioka, Fukushima, we had passed through half a dozen security checkpoints and received a full-body scan to measure internal radiation, a baseline reading for later comparison. Now, at the power plant, facing the shells of two nuclear meltdowns, our observation time was further regulated to minimize exposure. A visit to this part of the plant came with the understanding that just steps away were structures housing melted nuclear debris, the epicenters of one of the largest nuclear disasters in history.
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There were no hazmat suits or gas masks, the biohazard uniform most would imagine for this portion of the tour. Pants and a long-sleeved shirt was the required outfit, a protective layer augmented by gloves, a helmet and what could pass as a kafunsho (hay fever) mask. We were directed to tuck our pant legs into four layers of neon blue socks, which we slid into black ankle-cut rain boots. A personal Geiger counter was placed in the chest pocket of our mesh vests. It would set off an alarm when it reached the tour’s daily allowance for radiation exposure, 100 microsieverts, equivalent to a roundtrip flight between Narita and JFK. In our meticulously planned day-long tour, these counters wouldn’t reach more than 30 microsieverts.
The optics of this moment, standing in plain clothes next to two nuclear reactors, were not lost on Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO), which operates Fukushima Daiichi and facilitated Metropolis’ tour of the 3.5km² power station, known internally as 1F. Our guide remarked that they often bring visitors to this spot. Safely getting up close to one of the reactors, even if only for 10 minutes, is a gesture they hope will show conditions at the plant have improved substantially since the 2011 disaster.
In the past year, TEPCO has expanded the number of power station tours for journalists and the general public. These tours are an effort to increase transparency and educate the public on the plant’s status. They are also an effort to build goodwill for a company that is still maligned by many for its culpability in the disaster. Three retired TEPCO executives, Ichiro Takekuro, Sakae Muto and former chairman Tsunehisa Katsumata, are currently on trial for “professional negligence resulting in death and injury,” a criminal charge for ignoring internal reports that Fukushima Daiichi was at risk from a debilitating tsunami wave. The indictment was brought by a civilian judiciary panel, overruling prosecutors who had twice declined to press charges. The criminal trial follows a string of civil suits, including a ruling by a Tokyo court last year that ordered TEPCO to pay ¥11 billion (100 million USD) in damages to the residents of Minamisoma, Fukushima.
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As part of these tours, TEPCO is promoting what they consider major improvements to working conditions on the plant. Currently, 96 percent of 1F can be accessed with the “regular uniform” we wore during our tour. One of the most advertised portions of the plant is Sakura Dori, a roadway at the edge of  1F that has been specially maintained in order to match regularly-occurring radiation levels in Tokyo. Before the disaster, families of plant workers and local residents would gather under the road’s 1,000 blooming cherry blossoms trees for hanami (cherry blossom viewing) every April. This past year TEPCO invited journalists to Sakura Dori for a photo-op of the 380 trees that remain.
These entwined motivations of public education and public relations valence any visit to 1F, including Metropolis’. But even a manufactured look behind the power plant fences provides insight into the personal and working lives of the 5,000 people who are employed at Fukushima Daiichi daily. Their roles are diverse, from nuclear engineers and security guards, to bureaucratic liaisons and cafeteria servers. Decontamination workers stand alongside janitorial staff. There is even a fully-stocked Lawson convenience store tucked away in an administrative building with cashiers working the registers. Each of these workers wakes up every morning and must pass into the Fukushima exclusion zone on their way to work. Some even enter reactor buildings, earning their livelihood by putting themselves in proximity to dangerous nuclear debris.
As we walked down Sakura Dori towards our tour van, we passed a couple dozen workers; some matched us in attire, others wore blue TEPCO-issued coveralls, others wore anorak body suits and full-face masks, used in the plant’s most radioactive areas, or “R zones.” It was a muggy summer afternoon with grey clouds forecasting heavy rain. We were told heat stroke is a common problem when wearing full-body protective gear, one motivation behind efforts to make 1F more accessible with regular clothes. Without fail, though, each worker shared a hearty “otsukaresama” as they passed one another. The greeting is used to offer thanks for hard work; its literal translation addresses “someone who is tired.” Unlike PR officers, TEPCO executives and Diet legislators based in Tokyo’s Chiyoda Ward, it is 1F’s decommissioning workers who must walk Sakura Dori every day — not just when the cherry blossoms are in bloom. In some form, they will likely be walking this road for decades.
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On March 11, 2011 at 3:27 pm, a tsunami wave 13 meters tall crested over the six-meter seawall of Fukushima Daiichi’s complex, flooding the grounds with a force that crippled the nuclear power station’s vital cooling systems. Without electricity required to pump water into the reactors, the waterline dropped below the core rods in Units 1, 2 and 3, instigating a nuclear meltdown in each. Inside these reactor walls, boiling pools of stagnant water produced volatile amounts of hydrogen gas (a Zirconium-steam reaction). Within days Units 1, 3 and 4 (connected to the Unit 3 building by pipes) had all suffered explosions, carrying nuclear fallout over the Pacific and inland, disseminating across the towns of eastern Fukushima Prefecture. The nuclear fuel in Units 1, 2 and 3 soon melted through their primary containment vessels (PCVs) and pooled in the cement basements of each respective building, where it remains to this day.
Masahiro Yamamoto, 42, was there on March 11. In fact, he’s been at the Fukushima Daiichi power plant for over 20 years, his first and only job since university. Born in Shimonoseki, Yamaguchi Prefecture, where southernmost Honshu meets the tip of Kitakyushu, Yamamoto enrolled in a TEPCO-affiliated high school. Trained as an engineer, the feeder program placed him at the Fukushima plant back in 1994, where he worked a steady engineering job and raised his three children in Futaba. One of two towns that border 1F, the evacuated municipality currently has an actual population of zero.
“Before the disaster, I worked just like an average salaryman. But as disaster struck and the situation worsened, it was as if I was dropped right in the middle of a battlefield,”  he says. We don’t dwell on this difficult time, but Yamamoto shares some fragmented memories. “The monitors for the reactors started to show signs of abnormality, and I thought to myself, ‘what is going to happen now,’” he remembers. “My family lived nearby and I wanted to check their safety, but I had no way of communicating with them so I didn’t know whether they were swept away by the tsunami or injured by the quake. I had many worries, but I had to bury my feelings and focus on my duties. I managed to control myself up to that point.”
The Self-Defense Force came first; then other government agencies arrived — “When I was walking down the aisle to go to the restroom, the Prime Minister passed right by me.” Yamamoto’s workplace in a quiet seaside town had overnight become ground zero for a Level 7 nuclear accident, matched in severity only by the 1986 Chernobyl disaster. He describes himself and his team as co-workers that were suddenly required to be soldiers faced with daily life-threatening work. “When Unit 1 exploded, I was wearing my mask to go outside and work onsite at the reactors. I felt [the blast] blow across my face. Things took a turn for the worse and every time we had to go near the reactor buildings, our team was assembled knowing that there may be an explosion and we might die. We had to go through that many times, and it was psychologically hard on me.”
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Seven years later, the realities of working at Fukushima Daiichi have changed dramatically for Yamamoto. Along with 750 other TEPCO employees, he lives in company dormitory housing in the town of Okuma, just outside the exclusion zone. His family evacuated during the disaster and they have been living in Tokyo’s Otsuka neighborhood ever since. Long train rides on weekends are the only way he spends time with his wife and three children before returning to his duties at the plant.
“There’s nothing special about my job,” Yamamoto says, despite all signs to the contrary. “I think any work is hard and challenging.” He describes his average day, far removed from the emergency response. Early mornings begin with weight training; nights are spent studying eikaiwa (English conversation). He’s working to improve his English skills, in part, to share his experiences at the power plant and dispel fears about visiting Fukushima Prefecture. “I’d like many foreigners to come to Japan to learn not just about the fun things, but also about [Fukushima Daiichi] and the reality.”
Yamamoto currently serves as Team Leader at Units 5 and 6, two reactors that were spared from nuclear meltdowns but are set for decommissioning. While important work, this is only one part of an elaborate operation that also aspires to full decommissioning of Units 1, 2, 3 and 4 by 2050. Now seven years into this proposed timeline, some critics have questioned its feasibility. According to Daisuke Hirose, a TEPCO spokesperson who debriefed Metropolis on the state of decommissioning, there are three major priorities in fulfilling the plan as scheduled.
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The most complex is the location and extraction of nuclear fuel debris. Hundreds of tons of melted fuel remain buried deep within Units 1, 2 and 3, the exact locations of which remain unknown. Rubble and fatal radioactivity levels have rendered these parts of the reactor buildings inaccessible to humans, leaving remote-controlled robots the most viable method of investigation. Only minimal fuel debris in Unit 2 has currently been identified and the means of extraction have not been finalized, but Hirose says TEPCO will meet a 2021 benchmark for initial fuel extraction. Alongside the handling of nuclear debris, the plant must confront a rapid accumulation of contaminated water on site, perhaps the most urgent task facing the operation. 
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Despite the pressing and complex problems facing the project, Hirose argues that improving the safety of the plant must rank above all other priorities, “Decommissioning is something done by people. Our most important task is improving conditions at 1F for decommissioning workers.” Yamamoto, for one, insists he does not worry about his health while working at the plant. “At the time of the disaster, I couldn’t comprehend all the issues about contamination and radiation exposure, so I was very worried back then,” he says. “I don’t have those worries now.” Yamamoto’s duties at Units 5 and 6 include routine exposure to radiation, but he does not currently conduct work in the plant’s most radioactive locations. While we requested to speak to an employee with work duties in the R zone, TEPCO declined the request citing the priority for these employees as decommissioning work. “Of course, to be honest, there are some people who’ve suffered health damage, as has been reported in newspapers, so it’s not a zero,” he adds. Currently, 17 employees at 1F who’ve developed cancer have applied to the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare for compensation as a work-related illness. In September, the Ministry acknowledged the first death related to radiation exposure at 1F, a subcontractor in his 50s who died of lung cancer.
Once a meishi (business card) that held tremendous social capital, TEPCO is now a company irrecoverably associated with the disaster. To many, the workers of Fukushima Daiichi are the face of this institution. Yamamoto shares stories of coworkers’ doors being vandalized with graffiti and trash being dumped in front of their homes. It is difficult to find sympathy for the TEPCO workers at 1F when considering the continued injustices suffered by the residents of Fukushima, but the victims of the nuclear disaster and the rain boots on the ground at 1F are not necessarily distinct populations. Around 60 percent of the employees at Fukushima Daiichi are from Fukushima Prefecture, a number that TEPCO says may be underreported since it only includes those born in the prefecture. In many instances, including Yamamoto’s, the workers at 1F are working towards recovering their own communities in the entwined futures of decommissioning and Fukushima’s restoration.
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Our coach passed the border of the “difficult to return zone,” a government-designated boundary that separates areas of Fukushima deemed habitable from those deemed uninhabitable. Suddenly we were facing the Fukushima “ghost towns” of popular imagination. While Fukushima Daiichi is ground zero, the heart of this disaster is in the abandoned towns of the prefecture: homes and businesses and schools left behind in an instant, hard evidence of the 160,000 residents that were displaced by the disaster. Abandoned vehicles, shattered windows, hollowed-out storefronts, a dilapidated pachinko parlor and seven years of weeds rising from cracks in the cement — they all passed by the coach windows on our approach to Fukushima Daiichi.
We were not the only vehicles on this highway, trucks rumbled past us and cars lined the road. Calling these “ghost towns” is a misnomer: these towns may be uninhabited, but they are not unoccupied. Many of these vehicles belonged to a decontamination project that spans the original 20km exclusion zone and beyond. It is not operated by TEPCO, but rather a web of government agencies and municipalities. Their job, first and foremost, entails the mass removal of dirt, stripping entire towns of topsoil and manually washing down rooftops and other surfaces that were doused in radioactive particles in an effort to clean away radiation. Fields of black refuse sacks, millions of which are filled with contaminated soil, now litter the prefecture without plans for their permanent storage or removal. Regardless of this work’s efficacy, it is an undertaking that requires a massive labor force; Japan’s Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare reports that more than 46,000 were employed in Fukushima decontamination work in 2016.
The harsh reality is that the disaster has disrupted the industries that once thrived in Fukushima Prefecture — fishing, agriculture and service jobs. Currently, only half of the region’s 1,000 fishermen are going out to sea and they face highly reduced demand. The decontamination industry is one of the few thriving seven years later, but this line of work is not without its risks. In early September, the UN human rights division released a statement warning of possible worker exploitation in the recovery effort, both within the prefectural decontamination projects and on the 1F site. “Workers hired to decontaminate Fukushima reportedly include migrant workers, asylum seekers and people who are homeless,” wrote three UN Special Rapporteurs. “They are often exposed to a myriad of human rights abuses, forced to make the abhorrent choice between their health and income, and their plight is invisible to most consumers and policymakers with the power to change it.” Japan’s Foreign Ministry responded by calling the statement “extremely regrettable.”
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We met Yamamoto in the parking lot of the plant after our tour. His TEPCO uniform had been exchanged for pants and a graphic-T. It is the second time we’d met that he had worn this particular gray short-sleeved shirt with a Ghostbusters logo emblazoned on its chest, one of his favorite movies as a child. Outside the plant, Yamamoto sheds his professional facade to reveal a youthful energy. During the night ahead we would visit an izakaya (Japanese pub) in Iwaki City and share stories over local sake and sashimi (sliced raw fish), once celebrated Fukushima products that have since been cast off supermarket shelves as new associations and stigmas took hold of the prefectural name.
There are many people who shoulder the burden of the nuclear disaster: parents sending their children to school with Geiger counters on their backpacks, farmers who have lost their livestock and livelihood, elderly left to care for deserted towns as the young set roots far from Futaba-gun, multi-generation Fukushima lineages that have been forced to abandon their familial homes for prefabricated temporary housing units. Yamamoto carries one small burden of this sweeping tragedy, as do the other workers of Fukushima Daiichi, as do those who labor in irradiated fields without other means of income. They are trying to extinguish a danger that can’t be seen, but its presence is felt in every aspect of their work. At times the job they’ve been assigned feels beyond comprehension, but Fukushima is not a supernatural disaster and Yamamoto is no ghostbuster. This disaster is deeply human, founded in both nature and negligence. “If you think in terms of decades, the long road ahead and the abstractness of it all will crush you,” says Yamamoto. “But just as with any other work, if you split up big projects into smaller pieces, the feeling of accomplishment from each small victory will keep you motivated.” Inside the exclusion zone, we witness the people of Fukushima trying to take their land a few steps closer to normal.
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October 3, 2018 Posted by | Fukushima 2018 | , , , | Leave a comment

Leaving no stone unturned in heatstroke battle at nuclear plant

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The temperature is about 22.5 degrees around 6 a.m. on Aug. 6 at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant in Okuma, Fukushima Prefecture.
Aug 18, 2018
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 22, 2018 Posted by | Fukushima 2018 | , , | Leave a comment

Media reports de-romanticize the cleanup work on the Fukushima nuclear power plant

p17-brasor-fukushima-a-20180218-870x579.jpgFront-line fight: Workers remove protective clothing after a shift at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant in November 2011.

 
Most of the reliable reporting about the clean-up of the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant since it suffered three meltdowns in March 2011 has been from on-site workers. Even when articles appear in major media outlets about the situation at the crippled reactor, it’s usually presented through the anonymous or pseudonymous firsthand experiences of the men on the front lines.
Some have become famous. The public would not know much about the situation without Kazuto Tatsuta’s manga series, “Ichiefu” (or “1F” — shorthand for “Fukushima No. 1”), the writings of former letter carrier and cleanup worker Minoru Ikeda, or the books and tweets of a man known as “Happy” who has been working as an employee at the plant.
Because these individuals directly address what they and their colleagues have gone through on a daily basis, the work they do has been de-romanticized. It’s not as heroic as initial foreign media reports made it out to be. If anything, it’s tedious and uncomplicated.
Workers are concerned about those matters that all blue-collar laborers worry about — pay and benefits — which isn’t to suggest they don’t think about the possible health risks of radiation exposure. Last October, Ikeda talked to the comedy duo-cum-nuclear power reporters Oshidori Mako & Ken on the web channel Jiyu-na Radio about potential false reports on radiation levels around Fukushima, although also touching on health issues that have not been reported by the mainstream media. His main point was that serious illnesses may not manifest themselves until years after workers quit the site and thus no longer qualify for worker’s compensation. In other words, the workers understand the risk. They just want to be fairly compensated for it.
In that regard, one of the most common gripes from on-site reporters is the “hazard compensation” (kiken teate) workers are supposed to receive. Recently, Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc. (Tepco), which is both responsible for the accident and in charge of the cleanup, announced a reduction in outlay associated with the hazard compensation, which is paid as a supplement to wages. This compensation can add as much as ¥20,000 a day to a worker’s pay, but now that Tepco says radiation levels have dropped, they will no longer provide the compensation, or, at least, not as much as they have been paying.
A special report in the Jan. 22 Tokyo Shimbun attempted to explain how this change will affect workers and the work itself. In March 2016, Tepco divided the work area into three zones: red, for high radiation levels; yellow, for some radioactivity; and green, for areas that had no appreciable radioactivity. Workers interviewed by Tokyo Shimbun say they’ve never liked this system because they feel it “has no meaning.” Rubble from the red zone is routinely transferred to the green zone, where heavy machinery kicks up a lot of dust, so there’s no physical delineation between zones when it comes to radiation levels. On the ground, this reality is addressed by subcontractors who make their employees in the green zone — which constitutes 95 percent of the work site — wear extra protective gear, even though Tepco doesn’t require it.
But the workers’ main gripe about the zone system is that most of them ended up being paid less and, as on-site workers have often explained, they weren’t getting paid as much as people thought they were. Contractors advertise high wages to attract workers, but then subtract things like room and board, utility fees, clothing and equipment. And it’s been known for years that the hazard compensation was more or less a racket gamed by the contractors standing between Tepco, which distributes the compensation, and the workers, who are supposed to be the beneficiaries. There can be up to six layers of contractors between Tepco and a worker, and each layer may take a cut of the compensation. In 2014, four workers sued Tepco for ¥62 million, saying they worked at the site but received none of the promised hazard compensation.
That situation still seems to be in play, according to Tokyo Shimbun. Several subcontractors told the newspaper they receive the compensation for their workers not from Tepco directly but from the contractor that hired them, and in most cases the compensation has been reduced, sometimes by more than half. One subcontractor said that a company above them actually apologized for the paucity of the compensation they were handing down because their “revenues had decreased.” The man known as Happy told Tokyo Shimbun that Tepco is ordering less work at the site, which means existing subcontractors may cut wages in order to compete for these dwindling jobs. Some contractors have even invested in the robots that are used to inspect the reactor, because they want the work to continue without interruption.
It was common practice to rotate out workers toiling in the highly radioactive areas regularly and quickly and then re-assign them to low-radiation areas. After some time they may have been rotated back into the high-radiation area, where pay is more. The man known as Happy says this sort of system now seems to be on the way out, and that makes sense if radiation is actually decreasing. However, he’s afraid that if there is another emergency that requires a sudden influx of workers, they won’t be available.
Tepco is obviously thinking of its bottom line, and the man known as Happy thinks the work should be managed by the government, which is contributing tax money to the cleanup. However, it seems only the Japan Communist Party is reading the dispatches from the plant. Last May, Japanese Communist Party lawmaker Taku Yamazoe questioned Tepco President Naomi Hirose about the hazard compensation in the Diet, and why the structure of payments to workers wasn’t clear.
Hirose said that while his company intends that the money goes to workers, he cannot say for sure that is the case because of the circumstances surrounding Tepco’s relationships with contractors. With work on the wane, it seems unlikely that those workers will see any of the money that’s owed to them, retroactively or otherwise.

February 18, 2018 Posted by | Fukushima 2018 | , , | Leave a comment

Plutonium found in urine of 5 workers exposed to radiation

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TOKYO (Kyodo) — A small amount of plutonium was found in the urine of five workers exposed to radiation in an accident earlier this month at a nuclear research facility in Ibaraki Prefecture, a hospital operator said Monday.

The result shows that the five workers have suffered internal radiation exposure following the June 6 accident at the Japan Atomic Energy Agency’s Oarai Research & Development Center in the coastal town of Oarai.

They had been receiving medication to facilitate the discharge of radioactive materials from their bodies since the accident and will continue to do so, said the National Institutes for Quantum and Radiological Science and Technology, the operator of the hospital.

The five, although showing no signs of deterioration or notable change in their health, were hospitalized again from Sunday for the treatment.

In the accident, radioactive materials were released into the air in the room where the five were working when one opened a metal container holding plutonium and uranium powder samples and a plastic bag containing the samples inside suddenly ruptured.

Initially, the agency said up to 22,000 becquerels of plutonium-239 were found in the lungs of one of the five workers, while up to 5,600 to 14,000 becquerels of the radioactive substance were found in the lungs of three other workers. It said at the time that the four had suffered internal radiation exposure.

But the facility operator has since said a subsequent check by the National Institute of Radiological Sciences has found no plutonium in the lungs of any of the five workers. It has not ruled out the possibility that what was actually detected was radioactive substance left on the workers’ bodies after decontamination.

Also on Monday, JAEA President Toshio Kodama again apologized over the accident, saying at a press conference, “The agency as a whole had problems in the prediction of risks.”

He said he has no intention of resigning for now but will take “appropriate” responsibility depending on the cause of the accident.

The agency submitted a report compiling the causes of the accident and measures to be taken to prevent a recurrence to the Nuclear Regulation Authority, the state’s nuclear safety watchdog.

https://mainichi.jp/english/articles/20170619/p2g/00m/0dm/074000c

 

June 19, 2017 Posted by | Japan | , , | Leave a comment

Burst nuclear container scattered contaminants

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The operator of a nuclear research facility north of Tokyo has detected contaminants scattered in the same room in which workers were exposed to radioactive substances from a nuclear fuel container.
Five workers were inspecting the container at the facility in Ibaraki Prefecture on Tuesday. A bag inside the canister suddenly burst, expelling radioactive powder.
The operator, Japan Atomic Energy Agency, says it has detected radioactive substances from 14 sections of the room’s floor. It says measurements reached a maximum of 55 becquerels per square centimeter.
Photos taken a day after the accident show black flecks scattered on the floor. The agency says they could be plutonium and uranium.
After the accident, the 5 workers were kept in the contaminated room for 3 hours. Agency officials said they did not anticipate an incident of this kind, and needed time to set up a tent outside the room to decontaminate the workers.
The agency earlier said one of the workers had 22,000 becquerels of radioactive substances in his lungs. This level of exposure can cause major damage to health. But it now says the actual figure could be lower. Officials say the testing device may have also measured contaminants on the surface of the man’s body.
The worker has been transferred to the National Institute of Radiological Sciences. The officials say plutonium was not detected in an initial test there.

https://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/en/news/20170610_04/

June 11, 2017 Posted by | Japan | , , , | Leave a comment

Increase in Cancer Risk for Japanese Workers Accidentally Exposed to Plutonium

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According to news reports, five workers were accidentally exposed to high levels of radiation at the Oarai nuclear research and development center in Tokai-mura, Japan on June 6th. The Japan Atomic Energy Agency, the operator of the facility, reported that five workers inhaled plutonium and americium that was released from a storage container that the workers had opened. The radioactive materials were contained in two plastic bags, but they had apparently ripped.

We wish to express our sympathy for the victims of this accident.

This incident is a reminder of the extremely hazardous nature of these materials, especially when they are inhaled, and illustrates why they require such stringent procedures when they are stored and processed.

According to the earliest reports, it was estimated that one worker had inhaled 22,000 becquerels (Bq) of plutonium-239, and 220 Bq of americium-241. (One becquerel of a radioactive substance undergoes one radioactive decay per second.) The others inhaled between 2,200 and 14,000 Bq of plutonium-239 and quantities of americium-241 similar to that of the first worker.

More recent reports have stated that the amount of plutonium inhaled by the most highly exposed worker is now estimated to be 360,000 Bq, and that the 22,000 Bq measurement in the lungs was made 10 hours after the event occurred. Apparently, the plutonium that remains in the body decreases rapidly during the first hours after exposure, as a fraction of the quantity initially inhaled is expelled through respiration. But there are large uncertainties.

The mass equivalent of 360,000 Bq of Pu-239 is about 150 micrograms. It is commonly heard that plutonium is so radiotoxic that inhaling only one microgram will cause cancer with essentially one hundred percent certainty. This is not far off the mark for certain isotopes of plutonium, like Pu-238, but Pu-239 decays more slowly, so it is less toxic per gram.  The actual level of harm also depends on a number of other factors. Estimating the health impacts of these exposures in the absence of more information is tricky, because those impacts depend on the exact composition of the radioactive materials, their chemical forms, and the sizes of the particles that were inhaled. Smaller particles become more deeply lodged in the lungs and are harder to clear by coughing. And more soluble compounds will dissolve more readily in the bloodstream and be transported from the lungs to other organs, resulting in exposure of more of the body to radiation. However, it is possible to make a rough estimate.

Using Department of Energy data, the inhalation of 360,000 Bq of Pu-239 would result in a whole-body radiation dose to an average adult over a 50-year period between 580 rem and nearly 4300 rem, depending on the solubility of the compounds inhaled. The material was most likely an oxide, which is relatively insoluble, corresponding to the lower bound of the estimate. But without further information on the material form, the best estimate would be around 1800 rem.

What is the health impact of such a dose? For isotopes such as plutonium-239 or americium-241, which emit relatively large, heavy charged particles known as alpha particles, there is a high likelihood that a dose of around 1000 rem will cause a fatal cancer. This is well below the radiation dose that the most highly exposed worker will receive over a 50-year period. This shows how costly a mistake can be when working with plutonium.

The workers are receiving chelation therapy to try to remove some plutonium from their bloodstream. However, the effectiveness of this therapy is limited at best, especially for insoluble forms, like oxides, that tend to be retained in the lungs.

The workers were exposed when they opened up an old storage can that held materials related to production of fuel from fast reactors. The plutonium facilities at Tokai-mura have been used to produce plutonium-uranium mixed-oxide (MOX) fuel for experimental test reactors, including the Joyo fast reactor, as well as the now-shutdown Monju fast reactor. Americium-241 was present as the result of the decay of the isotope plutonium-241.

I had the opportunity to tour some of these facilities about twenty years ago. MOX fuel fabrication at these facilities was primarily done in gloveboxes through manual means, and we were able to stand next to gloveboxes containing MOX pellets. The gloveboxes represented the only barrier between us and the plutonium they contained. In light of the incident this week, that is a sobering memory.

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June 11, 2017 Posted by | Japan | , , , | Leave a comment

Ibaraki plutonium exposures baffle Japanese nuclear experts

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Experts probing the cause of the plutonium-inhalation accident involving five employees at a fuel research facility in Ibaraki Prefecture are trying to determine whether failures in safety equipment or procedures allowed the deadly powder to escape its container.

The accident might have been caused by the long-term buildup of helium emitted by the plutonium, one expert says.

The accident took place at around 11:15 a.m. Tuesday when five men from the Plutonium Fuel Research Facility at Oarai Research & Development Center were taking stock of a radioactive substance in an old storage container. This process usually involves placing the container into a special machine that adjusts the air pressure to prevent the material inside from being blown into the air.

Masked, gloved and donning other protective gear, a worker in his 50s along with a coworker standing by, removed the sealing bolts of a stainless steel container and opened the lid only to see a black powder burst forth.

The plastic bags were thick and we did not expect them to burst,” said an official at Japan Atomic Energy Agency, the facility’s operator. “I have no idea why (the plutonium powder) flew out of the container,” another said.

The powdery substance had originally been encased in a plastic container double-wrapped in plastic. It was then placed inside a stainless steel container sealed with six bolts. The container had not been opened since 1991, and held about 300 grams of uranium oxide and plutonium oxide that had been used in past experiments, JAEA officials said.

The container may have been filled with helium (which can be emitted by plutonium) from extended storage, and that may have increased the pressure inside it,” according to Kazuya Idemitsu, an expert on nuclear fuel engineering and a professor at the Graduate School of Engineering at Kyushu University.

Although masks were covering the workers’ noses and mouths, radioactive material was detected inside the noses of three of the exposed employees.

The agency said Wednesday that internal radiation exposure was detected in four of the five workers and that a fifth is suspected as well.

Up to 22,000 becquerels of plutonium were detected in the lungs of the worker in his 50s who opened the lid. Based on that figure, the agency estimates his body has likely has 360,000 becquerels of material inside it overall, they said Thursday.

Under current labor standards, that translates into 1.2 sieverts over a year, and perhaps a 12 sieverts over 50 years, the officials said.

The government allows designated nuclear workers to be exposed to a maximum of 0.05 sievert per year, or 0.1 sievert over five years.

This is an unusually high amount of radiation. We must carefully look into whether the workers took proper steps,” Nobuhiko Ban, an expert on radiological protection and a member of the Nuclear Regulation Authority, said at an NRA meeting Wednesday.

Plutonium decay can continuously damage cells in the body so it is imperative to make sure workers don’t inhale it, Ban acknowledged.

The main threat from internal plutonium exposure this is bone cancer.

There are very limited cases of treatment for internal exposure to plutonium in Japan,” Kazuhiko Maekawa, an expert on the subject, said.Gen Suzuki, an expert on radiation epidemiology and professor at the International University of Health and Welfare, said the amount of radiation in their bodies can vary based on the size and character of each particle of plutonium.


March 1997: Radioactive material leaks after a fire and explosion at the Ibaraki branch of now-defunct Power Reactor and Nuclear Fuel Development Corp., later absorbed by Japan Atomic Energy Agency. Thirty-seven employees were exposed.

September 1999: A self-sustaining chain reaction is triggered by the use of mixing buckets at uranium processing firm JCO Co. in the village of Tokai, Ibaraki Prefecture. The accident eventually kills two of three employees, after tainting more than 600 residents.

June 2006: A suspected case of plutonium inhalation occurs at Japan Nuclear Fuel’s reprocessing plant in the village of Rokkasho, Aomori Prefecture, but a check for internal exposure turns out negative.

July 2008: A worker at Global Nuclear Fuel Japan Co. is exposed to uranium in Yokosuka, Kanagawa Prefecture, followed by the exposure of four workers to a uranium-tainted liquid a month later.

March 2011: Three workers stepped in to a puddle during the meltdown crisis at the Fukushima No. 1 power plant, exposing two to high radiation.

May 2013: Thirty-four researchers at JAEA’s Japan Proton Accelerator Research Complex (J-PARC) in Tokai are exposed to an exotic soup of isotopes during an experiment.

http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2017/06/08/national/ibaraki-plutonium-exposures-baffle-japanese-nuclear-experts/#.WTuQ9jekLrd

June 11, 2017 Posted by | Japan | , , , , | Leave a comment

Ibaraki nuclear research facility under scrutiny after accident; gas suspected in rupture

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OARAI, Ibaraki — A nuclear research facility here has come under scrutiny after workers were exposed to radiation while checking radioactive materials that had remained in storage for 26 years.

One of the workers exposed to radiation in the accident at the Oarai Research & Development Center of the Japan Atomic Energy Agency (JAEA) on June 6, identified as a male in his 50s, was found with up to 22,000 becquerels of plutonium-239 in his lungs, raising fears he could develop cancer or suffer other health problems.

According to the JAEA, the total level of radioactive materials that entered the man’s blood, bones, organs and other parts of his body was estimated at 360,000 becquerels, based on the amount detected in his lungs.

Problems with safety management at the agency had already been pointed out, and focus is likely to turn toward whether the work at the time of the accident was appropriate.

The agency said that when the worker opened the bolted lid of a steel container during a check, the plastic bag inside ruptured, scattering dust containing uranium and plutonium. Two other workers were next to the worker at the time, assisting in the check.

The some 300 grams of dust was produced when fuel was created for the onsite Joyo experimental fast reactor, which first reached criticality in 1977. It had been placed in a polyethylene container, enclosed in two plastic bags, and then placed in a steel container, where it had been stored since 1991. There were no records to show that the container had been opened before, officials said.

The latest check was being conducted after the Nuclear Regulation Authority had pointed out problems with the management of fuel at another JAEA facility. The JAEA had planned to check 21 steel containers containing uranium and plutonium dust. The accident on June 6 occurred during a check of the first of these containers.

Why did the plastic bag rupture? Kazuya Idemitsu, a professor in the Laboratory of Energy Materials Science at Kyushu University, commented, “Over time, the atomic nuclei of uranium, plutonium and other such substances break down, releasing helium nuclei (alpha rays). When stored over a long time, helium gas would build up, and it’s possible that the pressure inside the container rose, resulting in the rupture.”

Sources close to the JAEA also acknowledged this possibility, with one commenting, “It may not have been a good idea to use a polyethylene container, which had a possibility of rupturing, for storage over a long period.”

On June 7, the Ibaraki prefectural and Oarai municipal governments conducted an on-site inspection of the Oarai Research & Development Center under a nuclear safety agreement. Seventeen officials viewed the inside of the analysis room where the accident occurred through a monitor, and examined the concentration of radioactive materials in expelled air.

Masaaki Kondo, a safety coordinator at the prefectural nuclear power safety division, commented, “We confirmed that the damage did not spread.” The Mito Labor Standards Inspection Office and prefectural police are investigating the cause of the accident and whether the work that led to it was appropriate.

https://mainichi.jp/english/articles/20170608/p2a/00m/0na/018000c

June 9, 2017 Posted by | Japan | , , , , | Leave a comment

22,000 becquerels of plutonium-239 and 220 becquerels of americium-241 found in lungs of nuclear facility worker

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No one has inhaled this much plutonium’: 5 staff exposed to radiation in Japan lab accident

Japanese authorities are unsure about the medical prognosis for five staffers who inhaled toxic plutonium after mishandling it at the Oarai Research and Development Center outside Tokyo.

As far as I can remember, no one has inhaled plutonium at this level,” said Ishikawa Keiji, a security official at the Japan Atomic Energy Agency (JAEA) which oversees the lab, cited by the Jiji Press news agency.

The accident occurred at 11:15am on Tuesday in the analysis room of the facility dedicated to researching improved nuclear fuel for its fast reactors.

One of the five men opened a metallic cylinder where the fuel, a mixture of uranium and plutonium, is stored before and after experiments. In the process, the double plastic wrapping inside which the radioactive material is kept ripped, and the toxic substance burst into the air.

Shunichi Tanaka, chairman of the Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA), which has frequently criticized the JAEA for the conditions at its facilities, said “workplace complacency” was possibly to blame.

The NRA said the workers had never experienced a similar plastic rip before, and as a result, did not feel the need to complete their research in a tightly sealed environment.

The researcher responsible for opening the box, described as a man in his 50s, had 22,000 becquerels of plutonium-239 detected in his lungs, and the other four between 2,200 and 14,000 becquerels.

Officials said the five staff have not yet complained of health problems with one assuring that “the amount is not enough to cause acute radiation damage,” according to the Japanese newspaper The Asahi Shimbun.

The longer-term predictions were less definitive, however.

Detection of 22,000 becquerels is a situation that cannot be easily brushed aside. It is no small amount, although it may not be life-threatening,” said Nobuhiko Ban, an NRA radiological protection specialist, quoted by The Asahi Shimbun. 

The five have been injected with a substance that speeds up the discharge of radioactive materials and remain under observation at the National Institutes for Quantum and Radiological Science and Technology.

The NRA has previously said that JEAA was “unfit” to operate an accident-plagued prototype reactor at Monju and has also faced accusations of poor handling of radioactive materials at another site.

But a use for Japan’s large plutonium stockpile must be found, and there are currently plans for utilizing MOX fuel – a mixture of plutonium and uranium, such as that involved in the latest accident – to power conventional reactors instead of the low-enriched uranium that they were designed for.

https://www.rt.com/news/391283-japan-nuclear-accident-plutonium/

No one has inhaled this much plutonium’: 5 staff exposed to radiation in Japan lab accident

Japanese authorities are unsure about the medical prognosis for five staffers who inhaled toxic plutonium after mishandling it at the Oarai Research and Development Center outside Tokyo.

As far as I can remember, no one has inhaled plutonium at this level,” said Ishikawa Keiji, a security official at the Japan Atomic Energy Agency (JAEA) which oversees the lab, cited by the Jiji Press news agency.

The accident occurred at 11:15am on Tuesday in the analysis room of the facility dedicated to researching improved nuclear fuel for its fast reactors.

One of the five men opened a metallic cylinder where the fuel, a mixture of uranium and plutonium, is stored before and after experiments. In the process, the double plastic wrapping inside which the radioactive material is kept ripped, and the toxic substance burst into the air.

Shunichi Tanaka, chairman of the Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA), which has frequently criticized the JAEA for the conditions at its facilities, said “workplace complacency” was possibly to blame.

The NRA said the workers had never experienced a similar plastic rip before, and as a result, did not feel the need to complete their research in a tightly sealed environment.

The researcher responsible for opening the box, described as a man in his 50s, had 22,000 becquerels of plutonium-239 detected in his lungs, and the other four between 2,200 and 14,000 becquerels.

Officials said the five staff have not yet complained of health problems with one assuring that “the amount is not enough to cause acute radiation damage,” according to the Japanese newspaper The Asahi Shimbun.

The longer-term predictions were less definitive, however.

Detection of 22,000 becquerels is a situation that cannot be easily brushed aside. It is no small amount, although it may not be life-threatening,” said Nobuhiko Ban, an NRA radiological protection specialist, quoted by The Asahi Shimbun. 

The five have been injected with a substance that speeds up the discharge of radioactive materials and remain under observation at the National Institutes for Quantum and Radiological Science and Technology.

The NRA has previously said that JEAA was “unfit” to operate an accident-plagued prototype reactor at Monju and has also faced accusations of poor handling of radioactive materials at another site.

But a use for Japan’s large plutonium stockpile must be found, and there are currently plans for utilizing MOX fuel – a mixture of plutonium and uranium, such as that involved in the latest accident – to power conventional reactors instead of the low-enriched uranium that they were designed for.

https://www.rt.com/news/391283-japan-nuclear-accident-plutonium/

High level of radiation found in lungs of nuclear facility worker

OARAI, Ibaraki — A worker at a research and development (R&D) center here has been found to have a high level of radioactive material — up to 22,000 becquerels — in his lungs following exposure to radiation, the center said on June 7.

The discovery came after five workers at the Oarai Research & Development Center, which belongs to the Japan Atomic Energy Agency, were exposed to radioactive materials on June 6.

Radioactive materials are difficult to expunge from the human body, and it is thought that the level of internal exposure in this case will be 1.2 sieverts in one year, and 12 sieverts over 50 years.

The five workers have been taken to the National Institutes of Radiological Sciences in Chiba Prefecture, where they are undergoing examinations.

At a Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA) meeting on June 7, a committee member said the workers’ situation is “not mild.”

According to organizations such as the NRA, one of the five workers was found to have up to 22,000 becquerels of plutonium-239 and 220 becquerels of americium-241 in his lungs. Two other workers were discovered to have 12 becquerels and 130 becquerels of americium-241 in their lungs, respectively. All five workers were administered medicine designed to reduce the radiation dose of the internal exposure.

The five workers were all wearing protective clothing and face masks at the time of the radiation exposure, the R&D center said. It is currently being investigated whether or not there were any problems at the time the incident happened.

Plutonium and americium are both harmful to human bodies as they emit alpha rays.

http://mainichi.jp/english/articles/20170607/p2a/00m/0na/018000c

Four workers exposed to radioactive materials at Ibaraki nuclear facility

Four workers suffered internal radiation exposure due to inhalation of a large amount of plutonium during an inspection at a nuclear research facility in Ibaraki Prefecture on Tuesday, the operator of the facility said Wednesday.

In the wake of what appears to be an unprecedented internal radiation exposure accident, the state’s nuclear safety regulator and local labor authorities inspected the scene to see if there were any flaws in safety management.

The accident occurred at the fuel research building of the Japan Atomic Energy Agency’s Oarai Research & Development Center when a bag covering a container for nuclear fuel materials, including powder samples of plutonium and uranium, tore during inspection on Tuesday.

Up to 22,000 becquerels of plutonium 239 were detected in the lungs of a male worker in his 50s. Up to 14,000 becquerels of radioactive materials were found in the three other workers, officials of the Japan Atomic Energy Agency said.

The Nuclear Regulation Authority said the worker with the higher reading has been exposed to an extreme amount of radiation and the situation is considered grave.

While none of the workers have complained of health problems so far, an official with the facility’s operator said it “cannot rule out the possibility of future health effects.”

The agency assumes that the amount of radiation exposure of the male worker in his 50s translates to up to 12 sieverts over 50 years, well above the legal limit set for workers who deal with radiation.

For its part, the labor office said that it estimates the man with the highest exposure to radiation has exceeded the annual limit of radiation exposure, which is 50 millisieverts a year and 100 millisieverts in five years.

Plutonium is known to emit alpha rays over a long period, damaging surrounding organs and tissues. If it is deposited into the lungs, it could increase the risk of developing cancer

The five workers have been transported to the National Institute of Radiological Sciences and given medication to help discharge radioactive materials from their bodies.

I saw such a (high) figure for the first time,” said Makoto Akashi, a senior official at the National Institutes for Quantum and Radiological Science and Technology, referring to the reading of 22,000 becquerels. The institute oversees the National Institute of Radiological Sciences.

It is very clear from a scientific viewpoint that the internal exposure to radiation would increase the risk of cancer (for the workers),” Akashi said.

I have never heard of such a large amount as a reading for internal exposure to radiation,” Shunichi Tanaka, who heads the NRA, told a separate news conference.

The workers wore masks but could have inhaled radioactive material from the small gaps between the masks and their faces.

Kunikazu Noguchi, an expert on radiological protection and associate professor at Nihon University, said it is hard to conclude the impact of the 22,000 becquerels, as the actual amount of radioactive substances he inhaled is still unknown.

It is possible, however, that the worker could have been exposed to more radioactive materials than the legally allowable maximum limit,” Noguchi said. He said it is necessary to get to the bottom of the incident, especially whether workers followed guidelines, as it is hard to imagine a plastic bag containing nuclear substances could tear in such a facility as the Oarai center.

http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2017/06/07/national/five-workers-exposed-radioactive-materials-ibaraki-nuclear-facility/#.WTkK8zekLrc

Worker at Ibaraki facility has up to 22,000 becquerels of plutonium in lungs

TOKYO – Five workers have suffered internal radiation exposure, with one found with up to 22,000 becquerels of plutonium in his lungs, following an inspection accident at a nuclear research facility in Ibaraki Prefecture on Tuesday, the operator of the facility said Wednesday.

In one of the worst accidents involving internal radiation exposure in Japan, up to 5,600 to 14,000 becquerels of plutonium 239 have been detected from the other three workers, the Japan Atomic Energy Agency said.

The accident occurred at the fuel research building of the agency’s Oarai Research & Development Center when a bag covering a container for nuclear fuel materials, including powder samples of plutonium and uranium, tore during inspection.

A labor standards inspection office in Ibaraki conducted an inspection Tuesday and Wednesday at the building, while the Nuclear Regulation Authority, the nuclear safety watchdog, also dispatched an inspector to the scene to check whether there were any violations of safety regulations.

The agency estimates that the amount of radiation exposure of the man with the highest level translates to up to 12 sieverts over 50 years.

The labor office believes that the man in his 50s has exceeded the annual limit of radiation exposure of 0.1 sievert in five years set for those who handle radioactive materials.

Plutonium is known to emit alpha rays for a long period, damaging surrounding organs and tissues. If it is deposited into the lungs, it could increase the risk of developing cancer.

The Japan Atomic Energy Agency has said the operation by the workers was carried out as usual.

Nuclear Regulation Authority Chairman Shunichi Tanaka said of the incident at a press conference, “Perhaps (the workers) have become too accustomed to plutonium. I urge careful handling.”

“As (a level for) internal radiation exposure it’s an amount unheard of,” he said.

“We shouldn’t downplay the situation,” said NRA Commissioner Nobuhiko Ban, a specialist in radiological protection.

While none of the workers has complained of health problems so far, an official of the facility operator said it “cannot rule out the possibility of future health effects.”

The five workers have been transported to the National Institute of Radiological Sciences and given medication to facilitate the discharge of radioactive materials from their bodies.

Since radioactive materials were found on hands and faces of four of the five workers, they have been decontaminated, said an official of the National Institutes for Quantum and Radiological Science and Technology, an umbrella organization of the National Institute of Radiological Sciences.

The workers wore masks to cover their mouths and noses but could have inhaled the radioactive materials from the small gaps between the masks and their faces.

The Japan Atomic Energy Agency has previously come under criticism for lacking safety awareness, following revelations of a massive number of equipment inspection failures at its Monju prototype fast-breeder nuclear reactor in Fukui Prefecture.

The Japanese government decided to decommission Monju last year after it has barely operated over the past two decades despite its envisioned key role in the country’s nuclear fuel recycling policy.

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June 9, 2017 Posted by | Japan | , , , , , | Leave a comment

5 Workers Exposed to Radioactive Materials at Oarai Nuclear Research Facility in Ibaraki, Japan

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22,000 becquerels measured in worker’s lungs

Sources at Japan’s science ministry have told NHK that up to 22,000 becquerels of radioactivity have been detected in the lungs of a worker accidentally exposed to radioactive materials at a nuclear research facility.
The worker is one of 5 who were exposed to the contaminants on Tuesday at the Japan Atomic Energy Agency’s Oarai Research and Development Center in Ibaraki Prefecture, northeast of Tokyo.
The workers were inspecting fuel storage containers when a bag containing a powdered radioactive substance tore open, spilling its contents and contaminating the men’s gloves and protective clothing.
The Agency had said at the time that up to 24 becquerels had been detected in the nasal passages of 3 of the workers.
The science ministry said the maximum level of 22,000 becquerels was logged when the workers were rechecked by a different machine.
The country’s Nuclear Regulation Authority secretariat says the nuclear material detected was plutonium 239.
All 5 men have been taken to the National Institute of Radiological Sciences in Chiba City, near Tokyo, for more detailed examinations.
The Executive Officer of the National Institutes for Quantum and Radiological Science and Technology, Makoto Akashi, says he has never heard of 22,000 becquerels being detected in a human body in Japan.
Akashi says the figure, if accurate, is quite high.
He says the impact on the worker’s health will vary depending on the type of nuclide that entered his body.

https://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/en/news/20170607_16/

Expert points at possible complications

A medical expert says he thinks that the worker will survive the exposure but that he may have future health problems.
Keiichi Nakagawa, Associate Professor of the University of Tokyo, said that this is the first case in Japan where 22,000 becquerels of radioactivity has been measured in a human body.
Nakagawa said he assumes that the agency’s officials based their calculation on the worst case scenario of the worker continuing to be affected by radiation over the next 50 years without receiving any treatment.
He said 12 sieverts of radiation would be fatal as a single external exposure. But he said that the health impacts of an internal exposure would emerge over 50 years.
Nakagawa noted that in some cases, leukemia patients are exposed to a total of 12 sieverts of radiation during therapy.
He said that he expected that the worker will recover with treatment to expel the contaminants.
But the expert said if radioactive materials stay in the worker’s body for a long time, there is a possibility that he may develop pneumonitis that causes breathing difficulties or other conditions.

https://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/en/news/20170607_29/

Workers exposed to radiation at facility

An accident at a nuclear research facility near Tokyo has led to 5 workers being exposed to radioactive substances. One was found to have 22,000 becquerels of radioactive contaminants in his lungs.
The 5 workers were inspecting fuel storage containers on Tuesday at the Atomic Energy Agency’s Oarai Research and Development Center in Ibaraki Prefecture.
A bag inside a container ripped open, spilling its contents of powdered plutonium, uranium and other material. The substances contaminated the men’s protective clothing and gloves.
On Wednesday, the agency checked the workers with a device that measures radiation emitted from the body.
The highest reading they detected was 22,000 becquerels of plutonium-239 in the lungs of one worker.
The exact level of his exposure remains unknown.
An agency official explained that this figure amounts to 12 sieverts of internal exposure over 50 years. The official did not rule out future health problems for the man in his 50s, who was reportedly closest to the bag when it ripped.
The agency gave the workers medical treatment to expel the contaminants, and then transferred them to the National Institute of Radiological Sciences in Chiba city for further checks.
The agency says the spill did not affect the environment outside the research facility.
The exact level of the 4 other workers’ exposure remains unknown.
The Nuclear Regulation Authority will examine the agency’s safety measures after it provides a report on the accident’s cause.

https://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/en/news/20170607_28/

June 9, 2017 Posted by | Japan | , , | Leave a comment

Japan Nuclear Lab’s 5 Workers Exposed to Radiation

5 workers exposed to radiation at Japan nuclear lab
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In this Tuesday, June 7, 2017 photo, Masato Kato, senior principal scientist in Fast Reactor Fuel Technology Development Department of Japan Atomic Energy Agency JAEA), bows during a press conference in Mito, north of Tokyo. The JAEA said five workers at a nuclear facility that handles plutonium have been exposed to high levels of radiation after a bag containing highly radioactive material broke during equipment inspection. The state-run agency said the incident occurred Tuesday at its Oarai Research & Development Center, a facility for nuclear fuel study that uses highly toxic plutonium.
 
TOKYO Japan’s Atomic Energy Agency said Wednesday that five workers at a nuclear facility that handles plutonium have been exposed to high levels of radiation after a bag containing highly radioactive material apparently broke during equipment inspection.
The state-run agency said the incident occurred Tuesday at its Oarai Research & Development Center, a facility for nuclear fuel study that uses highly toxic plutonium. The cause of the accident is under investigation.
The mishap poses a major nuclear security concern as well as a question as to whether the handlers and their health were adequately protected at the facility.
The agency said its initial survey found contamination inside the nostrils of three of the five men — a sign they inhaled radioactive dust. All five were also found to be contaminated on their hands and feet, but the radioactive material was likely to have been removed by taking off their gloves, shoe covers and other protective gear, and by taking a shower.
Agency spokesman Masataka Tanimoto said one of the men’s survey indicated high levels of plutonium exposure in his lungs, with the dose showing nearly 1,000 times that of his earlier nostril survey.
The figure, 22,000 Becquerels, could mean his exposure levels in the lungs are not immediately life-threatening, but are well above an average annual dose limit for nuclear workers.
The workers did not have any visible signs of health problems, Tanimoto said. They were taken to a special radiation medial institute for further health checks.
Japan’s possession of large numbers of plutonium stockpiles, resulting from the country’s struggling nuclear fuel reprocessing program, has already faced international criticism. Critics say Japan should abandon its spent fuel recycling ambitions because nuclear plant startups are still coming slowly amid persistent anti-nuclear sentiment since the 2011 Fukushima crisis.
 
Radioactive substance exposure at JAEA facility
Japan’s nuclear regulator says 5 workers at a nuclear research facility have accidentally been exposed to a radioactive substance.
Officials at the Nuclear Regulation Authority secretariat say the incident happened at the Japan Atomic Energy Agency’s O-arai Research and Development Center in Ibaraki Prefecture, shortly after 11 AM on Tuesday.
5 workers were inspecting fuel storage containers when a bag of powdered radioactive substance ripped and the contents spilled out.
The workers were wearing protective clothing and their faces were half-covered with masks, as they were in an area at risk of radioactive contamination.
Their hats and clothing were reportedly contaminated.
A maximum 24 becquerels of radioactive material was reportedly detected inside the noses of 3 of the 5 workers.
The facility tests and develops new-type fuel for fast-breeder reactors that run on plutonium.
Regulators say the material has not leaked outside the room where the spill occurred, and there has been no effect on the environment.

June 7, 2017 Posted by | Japan | , , | 2 Comments

A Clean-up Worker’s View Inside Fukushima’s Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant

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Ichi-F is rich in detail and strikingly perceptive in analysis, and yet it oddly supports the nuclear industry even as the radiation continues to take its toll.

Kazuto Tatsuta’s account of his work experience at the massive clean-up project at Fukushima’s Daiichi nuclear plant is remarkable on many levels.

The plant—known as Ichi-F for short—was the one which experienced three nuclear meltdowns in the wake of the destructive earthquake and tsunami of 11 March 2011. Since that disaster, a large-scale clean-up effort at the nuclear plant has been underway, simultaneous with broader reclamation and recovery efforts in the surrounding regions that were devastated by the triple disaster.

Tatsuta’s (the name is a pseudonym) true identity remains unknown, but he claims to have been a middle-aged temp worker with a bit of manga illustration background who got himself hired by a subcontractor doing clean-up work at Ichi-F. After he completed his initial work assignment, he returned to Tokyo and began producing manga accounts of the recovery effort. The manga were a smash hit, rapidly consumed by a public still riveted by the disaster and starved for accurate information about what was going on in the still tightly-controlled recovery zone. Between government propaganda on the one hand and activist/media sensationalism on the other, Tatsuta’s manga offered a refreshingly different take on the situation at Ichi-F. He largely avoids politics, simply depicting the day-to-day experience of workers in the recovery effort.

Tatsuta’s work—finally compiled and translated into English—is hard to categorize as a manga. It’s deeply technical, offering layout sketches of the site, detailed explanations of the nature of the work and equipment that’s used. It’s also deeply perceptive in its analysis of the work relationships at the site; almost the equivalent of sociological fieldwork.

It’s sometimes been categorized as a ‘slice of life’ manga; that manga genre which concentrates not on literary technique or telling an exciting story, but on depicting some aspect of real life experience for the elucidation and empathy of readers.

But it’s more than that. Tatsuta’s work described itself as a ‘labour diary’ in the original Japanese version; the English translation calls it “a worker’s graphic memoir”. The terms ‘labour’ and ‘worker’ are important here: the work verges on offering a new genre, a sort of proletarian or working-class manga. This is reflected in Tatsuta’s apparent determination to identify himself and his colleagues as workers. It’s an identity he aims at in opposition to those who would label them either as heroes or as gullible and exploited; as villains or victims. He struggles to assign his colleagues a sense of agency in their work. They’re not heroes, but they’re not slaves either. They’re everyday guys (he depicts an almost exclusively male recovery project) going about their jobs with dignity, pride, and an essential sense of humanity. They care about doing a good job (a uniquely Japanese fastidiousness evident in their focused teamwork), yet eagerly grab the opportunity for a casual nap behind a radiation shield whenever they can.

Fukushima Daiichi isn’t really some terrifying place full of negligent, unsafe conditions where people are practically forced into slave labor,” he argues in an interview included in the American translated collection. “The folks working there are all just ordinary old guys, most of whom are locals from Fukushima, and the rest coming from all over the country to help. That’s what I want you to know.”

There is a proud albeit masculinist tradition in Japan of the ‘day labourer’—those workers who showed up at big city hiring sites seeking manual labour jobs in the pre- and post-WWII era. A tradition nearing extinction in the ‘90s, it was reborn in the age of the Internet, which managed to precaritize employment not just in manual labour but in all fields of endeavor. Cell phones and Internet terminals became the new hiring site, and precarious labour extended to even skilled and professional jobs. The nuclear clean-up work Tatsuta engaged in is the direct descendant of this lineage of precarious employment. Unfortunately, he doesn’t dwell on the fact, instead chosing to normalize and shrug off the broader social implications of his precarious livelihood as an unemployed man in his late 40s.

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An Eye for the Everyday

Tatsuta has an eye for the every day, and the importance it plays in humanizing his subjects—the complexity of needing to use the toilet while wearing a radiation suit, or the difficulty of organizing bath-time in an overpopulated rental unit housing a dozen workers. There’s the beauty of a sunrise breaking over the horizon as they come off a late-night work shift, and the awkwardness of his boss prepping him what to say during a ‘surprise’ safety inspection to come later that day.

His account would indeed be a remarkably working-class, proletarian manga, at least insofar as it depicts in profound detail the experience of working-class life among the precariously employed at the nuclear plant, except for the fact that it lacks any deep political analysis. His structural analysis is first-rate; he breaks down in precise detail the complex work relationships at the plant. But he offers little in the way of judgment, and what little opinion he does offer is startlingly ambivalent. Yes, they’re precariously employed, even exploited in some ways, but he shrugs it off—they’re everyday guys, and that’s the way life goes. His commentary suggests this lack of judgment is the unique strength of his approach in this manga, but it can equally be seen as irresponsible prevarication.

He argues that what he presents is the honest portrayal of workers’ attitudes, apparently trying to forestall his critics. But a shrug in the face of precarious employment is hard to accept as honest and down-to-earth; it reeks of political immaturity. He also offers a broader progress narrative and refreshing though this may be in the context of Fukushima, the world has rightly become cynical of progress narratives.

When I started work, there was a police checkpoint at the intersection next to J-Village… Just about anything within 20km of Ichi-F was an off-limits protected zone. As the zone shrinks, the evacuation orders are slowly removed, but by bit…The lots for sale, which I showed you before, now feature new buildings under construction. You still see those black bags of contaminated dirt and protective green sheets, but there are also more and more fields and paddies replanted Rather than giving credence to the boilerplate “No path to the future,” “sluggish recovery” narratives, why not lend an eye to those areas which are recovering, slowly but surely?.. Nothing will happen that can be worse than what already happened.

Well, that’s the big question now, isn’t it?

Privatization, Profit, and Precarity

Tatsuta’s account may not be inherently critical of the nuclear industry, at least not on the basis of health and safety—he goes to great length to argue that radiation and its hazards are as controllable as any workplace hazard, and that the clean-up and recovery effort is actually proceeding quite well—but his narrative offers indirect yet profound criticism of the industry from a labour rights perspective. He illustrates a complex and privatized network of contractors and subcontractors engaged in the clean-up effort, which his work reveals as inefficient, greedy and deceptive (if not outright dishonest).

This is most clearly demonstrated in his efforts to obtain work in Fukushima. Back in Tokyo, he initially applies to several contractors, and despite offers of work—some of which sound so solid that he quits part-time jobs in preparation for his departure to Fukushima—only to be left hanging, or to discover that the companies have gone out of business and disappeared. When he finally does receive an offer that takes him to Fukushima, he and his co-applicants are left hanging for weeks while they wait for the subcontractor to be offered a gig. During this time, they are accumulating debt for their company-provided food and lodgings and other obligatory expenses that will be deducted from their pay, if they ever get any. They are eventually transferred to other lower-paying jobs as an interim measure while the company awaits a hopeful contract for nuclear or tsunami cleanup. Meanwhile, their lodgings are inadequate as well: ten or more men crammed into a single family living space, with a single bathroom.

Eventually, the subcontractor gets a contract, and Tatsuta gets to do the sort of work he came to do. But the shenanigans he experiences while waiting for that work reveals the inefficient and most likely corrupt sort of schemes that are the inevitable byproduct of such a convoluted and privatized system. Tatsuta may scoff at the health risks of the nuclear industry, but he’s quite open about the shortcomings of the industry from a labour rights perspective.

The thing is, he’s open about its shortcomings but isn’t actually critical. His reaction is to shrug off the complicated and bloated layers of the project. His attitude is one of the most perplexing things about the entire book. His analysis of the layers of subcontractors, and the sociological challenges this presents to workers trying move up within the system (as he observes through first-hand experience, trying to upgrade jobs by switching between companies has an eerie resemblance to pulling off a drug deal), comprises first-rate anthropological fieldwork. It’s a brilliant synthesis and analysis of the political economy and structural organization of the clean-up effort. And from any objective perspective, it’s appalling: a morass of inefficiency and corruption. Yet he concludes his brilliant and penetrating analysis with a cheery send-off:

People might think that the many-layered subcontracting system is problematic, but it’s how we maintain the cleanup efforts. It ensures local hiring and props up the economy here. That’s not to suggest that the system is ideal, but you can say that about almost any place in Japan…

What is that supposed to mean? How is the reader supposed to interpret his take? Is he so unaware that he doesn’t realize that he’s just described an incredibly inefficient, wasteful and corrupt system, with brilliant clarity? Does he simply not care? Are his final comments to be taken as a form of defeatism verging on nihilistic insouciance? Is he simply a prodigal yet immature analyst? Or on the other hand, is he hiding his true colours, pretending to be blasé or even on the side of the nuclear industry subcontractors, while laying out the system in damning enough detail so as to allow readers to draw their own conclusions?

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Working-class Machismo

It’s hard to tell how Tatsuta situates himself in this work. On the surface, he situates himself in the working-class, but in an almost over-the-top way. He doesn’t just work at Ichi-F for a job; he actually comes to love the work. Despite the fact that it’s hot, physically grueling and demanding precarious shift-work for low pay, he seems to become addicted to it. He earnestly misses it when he’s back in Tokyo working on his comics, and eagerly jumps at any opportunity to return. Is this macho bravado? Would he, for that matter, be as gleeful at the prospect of being recalled to work at the site if he didn’t have a ready exit visa in hand whenever he wanted, in the form of his alter-ego as a rising manga star?

It is, of course, hard to say. But what is true is that the precarity of the men’s labour is ultimately sacrificed in the narrative, subsumed to Tatsuta’s effort to demonstrate the casual, if occasionally courageous, indifference of Ichi-F workers to their unusual work environment. Radiation exposure is reduced to numbers on a scale, and the men’s primary concern becomes how to reduce their daily exposure not so much for health reasons but rather so that they can extend their paid work at the site. Employees are only permitted to accumulate a certain amount of radiation exposure each year, and once they reach their annual limit they’re laid off and sent home to wait for the chance of a gig the following year, once their exposure levels have dissipated and reset. The narrative is profoundly successful at challenging broad-based fears of radiation exposure: the workers toil away, quite confident that kept within reasonable levels radiation exposure is nothing to worry about. Be that as it may, a job that lays off workers in order to preserve their health from the daily radiation they experience is a form of precarious and exploitative labour regardless of whether the radiation is dangerous or not.

Tatsuta strikes back at his critics, depicting his working-class comrades as everyday guys doing their best under difficult circumstances: hard-working, stoic, dedicated and determined to persevere. He resists efforts of journalists and activists to depict the work as unduly dangerous, or evil, or complicit in hiding truths from the public. They’re no different from any other group of hard-working labourers, he argues. But in his efforts to demonstrate this, Tatsuta’s narrative achieves the dubious success of glamourizing and normalizing precarious labour.

Tatsuta has kept his identity hidden, he says, because he continues to seek work at Ichi-F (at the same time as he cultivates careers in manga and music), and he doesn’t want to compromise his company and colleagues. He implies that he wouldn’t be hired for any more gigs at Ichi-F if it became known who he was. But really, it’s hard to say whether that’s the case. Regardless of his intentions—which he professes to be neutral; neither to promote or oppose the nuclear industry but simply to depict his first-hand experience as a worker—the fact is that his depiction does a tremendous service for the industry by portraying the experience and hazards of life at a recovering nuclear plant as normalized, everyday, routine and controllably safe (so long as one forgets that the reason they’re working there is that the plant experienced three unexpected meltdowns in the first place). This is quite a boon for the nuclear industry, whether he intends it as such or not. His analysis of work relationships are less positive, but he accompanies them with a cheery slap on the back: “the folks working there are all just ordinary old guys” and “you can say that about almost any place in Japan”.

The result is a worker’s manga that’s rich in detail, strikingly perceptive in analysis, and yet winds up siding with the bosses. Not quite the proletarian manga, but a remarkable demonstration of what working-class manga could be. And a thoroughly fascinating read, either way.

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http://www.popmatters.com/column/a-clean-up-workers-view-inside-fukushima-daiichi-nuclear-power-plant/

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Ichi-F: A Worker’s Graphic Memoir of the Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant

Kazuto Tatsuta

(Kodansha Comics)
US: Mar 2017

Amazon

June 7, 2017 Posted by | Fukushima 2017 | , , | Leave a comment

Six years later, some workers at Fukushima nuclear plant say they can do without protective gear

This article actually says that people observing from a nearby hill were exposed to only 150 microsieverts per hour. If that number is not a careless misprint, it’s actually a huge number. A person living on that hilltop would be exposed to 1,314 millisieverts per year (if I calculated correctly), way above the legal limit which was increased to 100 millisieverts per year after the accident.

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Workers walk past cherry trees at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant on April 14. The plant operator said visitors do not need to wear special protection gear in most parts of the premises as radiation levels have fallen.

OKUMA, FUKUSHIMA PREF. – At the facility on the Pacific Coast, people in casual clothes stroll under cherry trees in full bloom.

Hot meals made with local ingredients are served for ¥380 at a cafeteria. Cold drinks, snacks and sweets are available at a convenience store.

This scene is not unfolding at a popular tourist site, but at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, which was rocked by a magnitude-9 earthquake and the ensuing tsunami on March 11, 2011.

Accompanied by officials from Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc., a group of reporters was given access to the power station earlier this month.

Six years have passed since the world’s worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl in 1986.

Efforts to remove radioactive debris and to cover tainted soil with materials like mortar have helped decrease the radiation at the plant, allowing workers to wear regular uniforms at about 95 percent of the site.

Tainted water has been moved to more secure welded tanks, replacing weaker ones made of steel sheets and bolts, reducing leaks.

Visitors can overlook the four reactor buildings from a hill about 80 meters from the facility, where core meltdowns hit reactors 1, 2 and 3. Hydrogen explosions heavily damaged the buildings for units 1, 3 and 4, which have since received new facades.

On the hill, the radiation in the air was 150 microsieverts per hour, less than the amount received during a round-trip flight between Tokyo and New York. Tepco says there is no health hazard here as long as you wear masks and helmets and keep your stay short. Workers once needed to change into tightly woven clothing at the J-Village soccer training center about 20 km away before entering the Fukushima complex. But that burden has been lifted.

About 7,000 workers — 6,000 from construction, electronics and machinery companies and 1,000 from Tepco — work at the power station to deal with the aftermath of the meltdown and decommission the reactors.

Our near-term goal is to create a place where they can work without worries,” said Daisuke Hirose, a spokesman for Tepco’s Fukushima No. 1 Decontamination & Decommissioning Engineering Co.

There are now 400 cherry trees at the facility. Before the disaster, there were 1,200, and local residents were invited to enjoy cherry blossoms every spring, Hirose said. Now, workers walk with smiles under a tunnel of trees, greeting passers-by.

In May 2015, a nine-story rest house with meeting spaces and shower rooms opened. A convenience store was added last year.

At a 200-seat cafeteria, hot meals made with Fukushima produce are delivered from a central kitchen in the town of Okuma, about 9 km from the plant.

I used to eat cold rice balls,” a worker on a lunch break said. “Hot meals make me happy and motivate me to work.”

The plant, which stands on a 3.5-sq.-km site about 230 km northeast of Tokyo, started up in 1971.

Since the radiation has dropped sharply at the facility, about 10,000 people per year, including journalists from the United States, Europe and Asian countries, have visited. Last year, high school students dropped by.

After the two-hour tour, a dosimeter carried by a reporter showed she was exposed to only 40 microsieverts, less than the amount from a chest X-ray.

Although the working environment has certainly improved, the fate of the plant is far from clear.

Decommissioning the crippled reactors is expected to take 30 to 40 years. The utility is aiming to begin removing fuel debris from one reactor by the end of 2021, but so far it has failed to even ascertain the condition inside the reactors.

A lot of rubble remains in many of the buildings on the seaside, keeping alive fears of a quake-tsunami catastrophe like the one that struck six years ago.

A frozen underground wall has seen only limited success in preventing groundwater from flowing into the reactor and turbine buildings, regulators have said, acknowledging that the facility is still a perpetual generator of tainted water.

Tepco is also struggling to dispose of tainted waste, such as used protective garments, gloves and socks. It has burned 1,500 tons of such waste while monitoring the radiation in the smoke. It still had 70,000 cu. meters of garbage as of the end of February.

Through legislation, we are prohibited from taking radioactive contaminated garbage outside the facility even after we incinerate it. We have to continue the fight against garbage and ash,” Hirose said.

Public confidence in Tepco has been shaky in the wake of the meltdowns, and even now, nearly 80,000 residents are unable to return to their homes near the plant.

We have caused it,” Hirose said. “We have to make every effort to create a place to which people want to return. Nobody wants to live where the safety and security of workers are not ensured.”

http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2017/04/22/national/six-years-later-workers-fukushima-nuclear-plant-say-can-without-protective-gear/

April 25, 2017 Posted by | Fukushima 2017 | , , | Leave a comment

Six years after outbreak of crisis, Fukushima nuclear workers continue to face slander, discrimination: survey

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Workers at the Fukushima No. 1 and No. 2 nuclear power plants have faced prolonged periods of stress after suffering slander and discrimination in the six years since the triple reactor meltdown at the No. 1 plant in March 2011, a university survey has found.

Over 10 percent of workers at the plants were slandered or discriminated against after the calamity, and many continue to suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder, including flashbacks and sleep disorders, the survey found.

The survey covered 1,417 employees for Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc. who worked at the No. 1 and No. 2 plants at the time of the disaster.

Of them, 181 people, or 12.8 percent, were slandered or suffered discrimination, according to the survey, which was conducted by a team that included Takeshi Tanigawa, a professor at Juntendo University’s Graduate School of Medicine in Tokyo’s Bunkyo Ward.

Just after the nuclear crisis erupted, the workers had a rate of post-traumatic stress disorder 5.7 times higher than other Tepco employees. Even three years later, the rate remained 3.7 times higher.

Taniguchi said anger at Tepco should not be directed at its employees, since they are also part of the reconstruction effort in the Tohoku region. The government, he added, should also support efforts to protect the physical and mental health of Tepco workers involved in the reactors’ decommissioning.

http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2017/03/11/national/science-health/six-years-outbreak-crisis-fukushima-nuclear-workers-continue-face-slander-discrimination-survey/#.WMWPVKKmnIU

March 15, 2017 Posted by | Fukushima 2017 | , , , | Leave a comment

32,000 workers at Fukushima No. 1 got high radiation dose, Tepco data show

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A Reuters reporter measures a radiation level of 9.76 microsieverts per hour in front of Kumamachi Elementary School inside the exclusion zone in Okuma, near Tokyo Electric Power Co’s tsunami-crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant on Feb. 13.

A total of 32,760 workers at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant had an annual radiation dose exceeding 5 millisieverts as of the end of January, according to an analysis of Tokyo Electric Power Co. data.

A reading of 5 millisieverts is one of the thresholds of whether nuclear plant workers suffering from leukemia can be eligible for compensation benefits for work-related injuries and illnesses.

Of those workers, 174 had a cumulative radiation dose of more than 100 millisieverts, a level considered to raise the risk of dying after developing cancer by 0.5 percent. Most of the exposure appears to have stemmed from work just after the start of the crisis on March 11, 2011.

The highest reading was 678.8 millisieverts.

Overall, a total of 46,490 workers were exposed to radiation, with the average at 12.7 millisieverts.

The number of workers with an annual dose of over 5 millisieverts increased 34 percent from fiscal 2013 to 6,600 in fiscal 2014, when workloads grew to address the increase in radiation-tainted water at the plant. The number was at 4,223 in the first 10 months of fiscal 2015, which ends this month, on track to mark an annual decline.

A labor standards supervision office in Fukushima Prefecture last October accepted a claim for workers compensation by a man who developed leukemia after working at the plant, the first recognition of cancer linked to work after the meltdowns as a work-related illness. Similar compensation claims have been rejected in three cases so far, according to the labor ministry.

The average radiation dose was higher among Tepco workers at the plant than among workers from subcontractors in fiscal 2010 and 2011. Starting in fiscal 2012, the reading was higher among subcontractor workers than among Tepco workers.

The average dose for subcontractor workers was 1.7 times the level of Tepco workers in fiscal 2013, 2.3 times in fiscal 2014 and 2.5 times in fiscal 2015 as of the end of January.

A separate analysis of data from the Nuclear Regulation Authority showed that the average radiation dose of workers at 15 nuclear power plants across the country, excluding the Fukushima No. 1 and No. 2 plants, fell to 0.22 millisievert in fiscal 2014, when none of the plants was in operation, down 78 percent from 0.99 millisievert in fiscal 2010.

http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2016/03/07/national/science-health/32000-fukushima-no-1-workers-got-high-radiation-dose-tepco-data-show/#.WL_oZKKmnIW

March 8, 2017 Posted by | Fukushima 2017 | , , | Leave a comment