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



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.

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

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


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.

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

Proud workers at Fukushima No. 1 nuke plant risk deadly radiation danger


Workers examine the inside of the No. 2 reactor containment vessel at the Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant on Jan. 30, 2017.

Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO) has failed to grasp the entire picture of melted fuel possibly accumulating inside the container vessel of the No. 2 reactor at the Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant. The radiation levels inside the vessel are extremely high, to the extent a human could be killed in less than a minute, and even a robot designed to conduct a probe inside went down quckly.
The Mainichi Shimbun visited the disaster-stricken plant late last year ahead of the sixth anniversary of the nuclear meltdowns at the facility in March.

On the early morning of Dec. 24, 2016, a group of 26 workers assembled at a building housing the No. 2 reactor when it was still dark outside. The workers were from heavy machinery giant IHI Corp. and other companies engaged in disaster recovery work. On top of their protective Tyvek suits, they were wearing special protective ponchos. They also had four-layer gloves on, with plastic tape wrapped around their wrists. The outfit made them sweat though it was the middle of winter.

In order for TEPCO to move ahead with decommissioning work on the No. 1 through No. 3 reactors at the plant, the utility needs to find out how much melted nuclear fuel lies inside the facilities, and where, in the aftermath of the meltdown of 1,496 fuel rods. The 26 workers were tasked with drilling a hole measuring 11.5 centimeters in diameter in the No. 2 reactor’s container vessel to open the way for the probe robot, using a remotely controlled machine.

Ryosuke Ishida, 28, an employee of a related company in Hokkaido, was in charge of removing the machinery that was used in the drilling work. In order to ward off the severely high radiation, he was wearing a lead jacket weighing 10 kilograms on top of his already tightly sealed protective gear. Each worker was allowed only five minutes for their task to keep their radiation exposure doses to no more than 3 millisieverts a day. The dosimeters they were carrying with them were set to beep when the radiation level reached 1.5 to 2 millisieverts, with an additional alarm set to go off when radiation doses hit every one-fifth of those levels.

Ishida’s dosimeter beeped just under a minute after he stepped inside the No. 2 reactor building. “Is it beeping already?” he thought to himself. The radiation levels vary greatly depending on where one stands inside the facility. Although Ishida had got a firm grasp on where the hot spots were during pre-training, he found himself “inadvertently standing on highly radioactive spots as I was focused on work.”

While trying to calm himself down, Ishida sped up his manual work. Alas, a machine component for turning a bolt fell off and rolled on the floor. “Damn, I’m running out of time,” he thought. His full face mask went all white as he sweated physically and emotionally, blocking his view. By the time he finished picking up the fallen component and wrapped up his work, he was sweating all over his body.

“It’s a battle against radiation at the site,” Ishida recalled. He added, though, “Because nobody else wants to do the job, I find it all the more worthwhile and take pride in it.”

February 28, 2017 Posted by | Fukushima 2017 | , , , | Leave a comment

Did Fukushima Daiichi Cause Cancer in Children and Plant Workers?


Here is the latest update on news about Fukushima children’s thyroid cancer rate and cancer among workers at the plant:

10 more thyroid cancer cases diagnosed in Fukushima. The Mainichi, December 28, 2016 (Mainichi Japan)

FUKUSHIMA — Ten more people were diagnosed with thyroid cancer as of late September this year in the second round of a health survey of Fukushima Prefecture residents, which began in April 2014, a committee overseeing the survey disclosed on Dec. 27. The number of people confirmed to have cancer during the second round of the survey stands at 44, while the overall figure including cases detected in the first round stands at 145.

… Some have pointed to the danger of “excessive diagnoses” during health checks in which doctors find cases of cancer that do not require surgery, which could place a physical and mental burden on patients. There have accordingly been calls for the Fukushima Prefectural Government to scale down the scope of its health survey.

Plant worker’s thyroid cancer certified as linked to nuclear disaster. The Mainchi, December 17, 2016 (Mainichi Japan)

TOKYO (Kyodo) — A worker exposed to radiation when disaster struck the Fukushima nuclear plant has been found to have developed thyroid cancer caused by an industrial accident, the labor ministry said Friday.

The employee of Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc., the operator of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, is the third person determined to be entitled to benefits due to illness caused by exposure to radiation released when three reactors melted down in the days after a massive earthquake and ensuing tsunami in March 2011.

The man is the first to be certified for developing thyroid cancer because of the nuclear disaster. The first two persons suffer from leukemia.

Here is some BACKGROUND ON THE DEBATES ABOUT FUKUSHIMA EFFECTS ON CHILDREN IN JAPAN excerpted from my book, Crisis Communication, Liberal Democracy and Ecological Sustainability

…Children are likely at greatest risk for health consequences from exposure because they are biologically more vulnerable to radiation since their cells are dividing faster. The thyroid is particularly susceptible to radiation-induced damage because it bioaccumulates radioactive iodine. People with thyroid conditions have an increased risk of dying because of damage that occurs prior to treatment.[i]

Potassium iodide helps block absorption of radioactive iodine but as mentioned earlier in the chapter, distribution was delayed. Consequently, many children in Japan became internally contaminated with radioiodine, in addition to whatever other radionuclides internalized through inhalation and ingestion.

July 6, 2011 the Japanese press Kyodo reported that in a March 2011 survey of 1,080 children aged 0 to 15 in Iwaki, Kawamata, and Iitate 45 percent of kids in Fukushima survey had thyroid exposure to radiation.[ii]

A separate study measuring thyroid exposure to Iodine-131 conducted between April 12, 2011 and April 16, 2011 and published in Research Reports found “extensive measurements of the exposure to I-131 revealing I-131 activity in the thyroid of 46 out of the 62 residents and evacuees measured”[iii]

In August of 2011, NHK reported that Japan’s nuclear commission had erased children’s exposure data derived from a test of 1,000 children aged 15 or younger who had been screened for radiation affecting their thyroid.[iv] By February of 2014, there were 75 confirmed or suspected thyroid cancer cases among 270,000 Fukushima Prefecture individuals screened, who were 18 or under at the time of the disaster.[v]

The screening committee claimed the Fukushima disaster was an unlikely cause.[vi] However, the observed frequency of thyroid cancer and nodules exceeds established incident rates. For example, the prevalence of thyroid nodules in children typically ranges from 0.2-5.0 percent,[vii] while in Fukushima, 42 percent of 133,000 children were found to have thyroid nodules and cysts two years after the disaster.[viii]

In 2015 two research articles were published arguing that the rate of thyroid cancer among Fukushima children was excessive.

The first study noted that the surge of thyroid cancers detected among 370,000 Fukushima residents aged 18 or younger was “unlikely to be explained by a screening surge” given the incident rate was found to be 20 to 50 times the national average at the close of 2014.[ix]

The second study observed that the rate of thyroid cancer being detected in Fukushima’s children exceeded the rate found after Chernobyl.[x] However, Shoichiro Tsugane, Director of the Research Center for Cancer Prevention and Screening, asserted that “Unless radiation exposure data are checked, any specific relationship between a cancer incidence and radiation cannot be identified,” and noted there exists a “global trend of over-diagnosis of thyroid cancer….”[xi]

Fukushima Prefecture residents’ concerns about living in a radiation-contaminated zone are too often trivialized by government officials. In 2015, evacuees from Naraha located in Fukushima Prefecture challenged a government official who described their concerns about drinking water contamination as a “psychological issue” after the Ministry of Education reported up to 18,7000 Becquerels of radioactive cesium per kilogram of soil taken from the bottom of a reservoir at Kido Dam which serves as the community’s drinking water source.[xii]

Dr. Shunichi Yamashita of Japan’s Atomic Bomb Research Institute produced widespread outrage for claiming that radiation does not harm people who are happy and that there is little risk from annual exposure levels below under 100 millisieverts.[xiii]

[i] Anne Laulund, Mads Nybo, Thomas Brix, Bo Abrahamsen, Henrik Løvendahl Jørgensen, Laszlo Hegedüs, “Duration of Thyroid Dysfunction Correlates with All-Cause Mortality. The OPENTHYRO Register Cohort,” PLOS, 9.10(2014): 1-8, e110437-110 DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0110437.

[ii] “45% of kids in Fukushima survey had thyroid exposure to radiation,” The Mainichi (July 5, 2011):

[iii] Shinji Tokonami, Masahiro Hosoda, Suminori Akiba, Atsuyuk Sorimachi, Ikuo Kashiwakura, and Mikhail Balonov “Thyroid doses for evacuees from the Fukushima nuclear accident.” Scientific Reports, 2(507)(2012): 1. doi:10.1038/srep00507.

[iv] “Nuclear Commission erases children’s exposure data,” NHK (August 11, 2011).

[v] Nose, T., & Oiwa, Y. (2014, February 8). Thyroid cancer cases increase among young people in Fukushima. The Asahi Shimbun. Available:

[vi] “Eight more Fukushima kids found with thyroid cancer; disaster link denied,” The Japan Times (February 7, 2014):

[vii] Gerber, M. E., Reilly, B. K., Bhayani, M. K., Faust, R. A., Talavera, F., Sadeghi, N. & Meyers, A. D. “Pediatric thyroid cancer,” Emedicine. (2013):

[viii] Haworth, A. (2013, February 23). After Fukushima: Families on edge of meltdown. The Guardian. Available

[ix] Toshihide Tsuda, Akiko Tokinobu, Eiji Yamamoto and Etsuji Suzuki, “Thyroid Cancer Detection by Ultrasound Among Residents Ages 18 Years and Younger in Fukushima Japan: 2011 to 2014,” Epidemiology (2015), 1-7.

[x] Shigenobu Nagataki and Takamura, Noboru, “A review of the Fukushima nuclear reactor accident: radiation effects on the thyroid and strategies for prevention. Current Opinion in Endocrinology, Diabetes & Obesity, 21.5 (October 2014): 384–393. doi: 10.1097/MED.0000000000000098, available

[xi] “New Report Links Thyroid Cancer Rise to Fukushima Nuclear Crisis,” The Japan Times, Oct 7, 2015, accessed October 8, 2015, available

[xii] “Fukushima town residents protest official’s comment about radiation safety,” The Mainichi (July 7 2015). Date accessed July 8, 2015. Available:

[xiii] ‘Studying the Fukushima Aftermath: “People Are Suffering from Radiophobia”’ (19 August 2011), Der Spiegel,,1518,780810,00.html, date accessed 4 September 2011.



January 23, 2017 Posted by | Fukushima 2017 | , , , | Leave a comment

Tepco Recognizes only 15 Workers’ Cancers at Fukushima Daiichi


A new report was released by TEPCO stating that 15 workers from Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant have develop cancer so far : 8 cases of leukemia, 5 cases of malignant lymphoma, 2 cases of multiple myeloma.

These cancers are recognized sufficiently linked to their work at the nuclear plant and caused by their  radiation exposure . Their exposure dose superior to 100 mSv or more and the period from their radiation exposure to their onset of cancer is more than 5 years. Those 15 workers eligible to receive compensation.

These counts does not include the SDF and Tokyo Fire Department workers who responded to the disaster at Fukushima daiichi on March 2011.

Source :

January 19, 2017 Posted by | Fukushima 2017 | , , , | 1 Comment

For 6,000, the daily bus ride takes them to Fukushima plant


A shuttle bus takes workers in deep sleep from the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant to J-Village, where their temporary dormitories are located.

A shuttle bus takes workers in deep sleep from the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant to J-Village, where their temporary dormitories are located. (Shigeta Kodama)
NARAHA, Fukushima Prefecture–Despite the predawn hour, few people are sleeping on a bus that steadily makes its way north on National Route 6.

Some passengers are planning for the work ahead. One is looking forward to chatting with his colleagues. And a few wonder if today will be the day when their annual radiation doses reach the safety limit.

Every day, buses like this take 6,000 workers to the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant. And every day, the same buses take the exhausted and mostly sleeping workers back to their base at the Japan Football Village (J-Village) in Naraha.

Although the Fukushima plant is still decades away from being decommissioned, without this daily routine of the workers who toil amid an invisible danger, the situation at the site would be much more difficult.


One of them, the 49-year-old leader of a group of metal workers from Iwaki, Fukushima Prefecture, has been working at nuclear plants, including the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa power station in Niigata Prefecture, for nearly 20 years.

He was at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant when the Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami triggered the triple meltdown there in March 2011.

Nobody can get close to the area where the melted nuclear fuel remains due to high radiation doses,” the man said. “Even if we could approach the area, we would have no way out if something happens. The situation is harsh.”

Those metal workers install tanks for the contaminated water that keeps accumulating at the plant.

Although there are plenty of empty seats, the young workers sit in front and the older workers take the back seats.

Thousands of workers are staying at temporary dormitories set up in J-Village, a soccer training complex.

Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc., operator of the nuclear plant, hired a local bus company to transport the workers to the plant because securing parking areas near the site has been difficult since the 2011 disaster.

The company provides 407 services a day to and from the plant. Each trip takes about 30 minutes.

The first shuttle bus departs from J-Village at 3:30 a.m., while the last bus leaves the Fukushima plant at 9:45 p.m.

In mid-November amid torrential rain, one bus picked up a man taking shelter under the eaves of a bus stop.

He said he is in charge of managing data related to radiation doses of fittings and other equipment at the plant.

We have many different types of work here,” the man proudly said.

Also on the way to the nuclear plant, a 53-year-old employee of a security company was thinking about personnel distribution.

Like other workers there, security guards must be replaced when their annual radiation doses reach a certain level set by the government.

He said he has difficulties making ends meet with a limited number of guards who have knowledge about radiation.

Suddenly, the man’s cellphone rings, and the caller orders the deployment of additional security guards to the plant.

A 52-year-old TEPCO employee was on the way to the nearby Fukushima No. 2 nuclear power plant to provide a safety training program for workers, many of whom are victims of the triple disaster.

I want to convey to workers how precious their lives are and how important safety is in a way that doesn’t make me sound hypocritical,” the employee said.

The triple meltdown has been called a “man-made disaster” caused by the failure of both TEPCO’s management and the government’s regulatory authorities.

The TEPCO employee will use props, such as a ladder, and pretend to be a worker to explain dangerous cases at the No. 1 plant.


On the trip back to J-Village, a different atmosphere exists on the bus.

Although dazzling sunlight shines through the windows and stunning views of the ocean are available, most of the workers are fast asleep in their wrinkled uniforms.

Few people stay awake. I don’t even switch on the radio. They must be tired after their work,” said Nobuyuki Kimura, 52, who has driven the shuttle bus for one-and-a-half years.

In Kimura’s bus that departed the plant at 2:30 p.m., all 50 seats and some of the auxiliary seats were filled. The few passengers who stayed awake remained quiet.

By early evening, fewer workers boarded the bus at the plant.

Window seats at the back of the bus are desirable on all rides because they have an enough room for the seats to recline, allowing passengers to cross their legs.

A 21-year-old worker from Iwaki went for a window seat at the back after standing at the front of a line waiting for the bus.

I can relax sitting here. This is the premium seat,” said the man who collects waste materials, such as boots and socks, at the site.

Although he works in protective gear in an area with high radiation levels, he said he has never thought about quitting his job.

He said he became fed up with school as a junior high school student, and did not bother going to senior high school.

At the age of 18, he joined his current company, and his first assignment was at the Fukushima No. 1 plant.

I became acquaintances with more and more people. It’s fun to speak with people at work,” he said.

Through his work at the nuclear plant, his weight has dropped from 115 kilograms to 93 kg.

Thirty to 40 years are needed to decommission the Fukushima No. 1 plant, according to the mid- and-long-term roadmap compiled by the government and TEPCO.

To reduce the groundwater flowing into the buildings housing the No. 1 to No. 4 reactors, TEPCO installed coolant pipes this year to create an underground frozen soil wall to divert the water into the ocean.

TEPCO announced in October that the ice wall on the sea side was nearly frozen, but groundwater is believed to be seeping through it.

The utility plans to start removing spent fuel from the No. 3 reactor building in fiscal 2017. It also has plans to begin the daunting task of removing the melted fuel from the No. 1 to No. 3 reactor containment vessels in 2021.

However, extremely high radiation levels have prevented workers from approaching and understanding the condition of the melted fuel. The removal method has yet to be decided.

The estimated cost of work for decommissioning and dealing with the contaminated water has ballooned to 8 trillion yen ($68.1 billion).

December 23, 2016 Posted by | Fukushima 2016 | , , | Leave a comment

465 suspected of working illegally at Fukushima nuke plant in 2015



A total of 465 workers at the disaster-stricken Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant may have been employed under “disguised contracts,” according to the results of a 2015 Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO) questionnaire.
Under a “disguised contract,” people are given work without official employment or are made to work under the instruction of parties other than those who place the original orders, obscuring the party responsible for their safety. The revelation comes after the Mainichi Shimbun reported that seven foreign nationals worked at the plant in 2014 under suspected illegal contracts. TEPCO had subsequently concluded that it had identified no problems over the issue based on its questionnaires.

The utility recognized that 118 of the 465 workers — whose employers TEPCO says it could identify and whom it checked with by way of the original contractors — were “all in appropriate employment statuses.”

In response to the TEPCO announcement, however, a former Japanese worker at the plant testified to the Mainichi that he “couldn’t write about the truth” in those surveys. Furthermore, at least one subcontractor related to work at the plant has admitted to the existence of disguised contract work.

The Employment Security Act and other regulations ban “disguised contract work” in which workers receive instructions from companies other than those they have employment or business contracts with as it obscures the party responsible for safety management. The seven foreign nationals — mostly Japanese-Brazilians — who worked at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant in 2014 received work instructions from a subcontractor, but they were in fact sole proprietors with business contracts.

TEPCO started handing out surveys in fiscal 2011 to all non-regular workers engaged in the decommissioning of reactors at the plant in a bid to improve their work environment. The utility has released the results of the past surveys on its website.

A questionnaire conducted between August and October last year, whose results were recently released, received responses from 86.4 percent of all workers at the Fukushima No. 1 plant, or 6,527 individuals, most of whom are believed to be Japanese. Among them, 465 workers (14.2 percent) of 3,268 workers (excluding supervisors and managers) answered that “the company that gives me work instructions and the one that pays me are different.” Of them, TEPCO asked the original contractors to conduct a survey on 118 workers and concluded that their employment statuses were appropriate based on their reports.

A former male Japanese worker for a second-tier subcontractor that undertook work to build storage tanks for radiation contaminated water at the plant between 2014 and 2015 revealed to the Mainichi that when he responded to a TEPCO survey, he enclosed his answer sheet in an envelope and handed it over to a first-tier subcontractor without sealing it. The answer sheets submitted by workers were ultimately collected by the original contractor before being submitted to TEPCO.

“Although the surveys were anonymous, they could tell who wrote the answers by the handwriting. I couldn’t write about working under harsh conditions, in which many people collapsed due to heatstroke. The way the surveys are conducted now wouldn’t lead to uncovering the realities at the job sites,” he said.

The president of a construction company in Fukushima Prefecture that undertakes decommissioning work at the Fukushima No. 1 plant told the Mainichi in February that the company was making workers dispatched by another firm work at the plant by disguising them as its own regular employees. “I’m aware it constitutes disguised contract work, which is illegal. But it’s a common practice.”

Meanwhile, TEPCO’s public relations section, when asked whether its questionnaires can uncover the realities of work conditions for those engaged in decommissioning work at the plant, said, “We see no problems with them.”

November 22, 2016 Posted by | Fukushima 2016 | , , | Leave a comment

Foreigners Hired at Fukushima Nuke Plant Under Suspected Illegal Contracts


Dressed in protective suits, foreign workers who were engaged in the construction of tanks to hold radioactively contaminated water at the tsunami-hit Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant pose in this photo taken sometime around May 2014.

About seven foreign nationals worked at the disaster-stricken Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant in 2014 under suspected illegal contracts, sources close to the matter have revealed to the Mainichi Shimbun.

It was reported that the workers — mostly Brazilians — did not receive sufficient guidance on radiation protection as ordered by law before they engaged in work to contain radioactive water at the plant. It is the first time that a post-disaster labor issue involving foreign workers at the plant has come to light.

At the time, plant operator Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO) was pressed to deal with contaminated water emanating from the 2011 nuclear disaster and put in an order for the construction of welded storage tanks with a major contractor. This work was sub-subcontracted to a Tokyo-based welding company. The welding company’s president explained that it “couldn’t fill the spots with a sufficient number of Japanese workers,” so about seven foreign welders were hastily assembled for the job.

Roney Tsuyoshi Ishikawa, 43, a Japanese-Brazilian welder, and other sources told the Mainichi that Ishikawa received the order to build the tanks from the welding firm for 2 million yen per tank. He made contracts with individual foreign nationals and placed welding orders. Ishikawa left the construction site before the job was finished, and the welding company and other parties thereafter gave instructions to the remaining workers.

The Employment Security Act and other regulations ban “disguised contracts” in which workers are given work without official employment or are made to work under the instruction of parties other than those who place the original orders, thereby obscuring the party responsible for safety management.

The president of the welding company told the Mainichi, “As non-regular employees were prohibited from entering the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant, I reported to the (first-tier) contractor that they (the foreign workers) were regular employees. It is more efficient to get the work done under contracts.”

According to Ishikawa and others, the foreigners worked at the plant sometime between March and May 2014. Many of those workers were unable to sufficiently read or write in Japanese.

Workers at nuclear facilities normally receive advance guidance on nuclear fuel and radiation and need to pass relevant exams. The exams and textbooks are written in Japanese, but some of the foreign workers in question passed the tests after Ishikawa, who is fluent in Japanese, gave them the right answers by their side.

“There was a tacit understanding amid the rush to combat the contaminated water,” Ishikawa said.

TEPCO refused to reveal the labor situation involving individual foreign laborers when the Mainichi Shimbun reached out for comment, but said it has given guidance to foreign workers “by using English textbooks and having the employer assign interpreters.”





November 7, 2016 Posted by | Fukushima 2016 | , , , | Leave a comment

Untrained Staff Did Radioactive Cleanup Work in Fukushima


Certificates of training in radioactive decontamination work were issued by a company in Nihonmatsu, Fukushima Prefecture, to workers who had received no such training.

NIHONMATSU, Fukushima Prefecture–A company has admitted to not giving the required special training to workers before dispatching them to carry out decontamination work in radiation-hit Fukushima city.

A subcontractor called “Zerutech Tohoku” issued at least 100 bogus certificates to its workers showing they had completed the training, when, in fact, they had done nothing, according to the Fukushima Labor Standards Inspection Office.

The office had warned the subcontractor, which is based in Nihonmatsu and decontaminates parts of nearby Fukushima city, which was affected by the 2011 nuclear disaster, that it should give special training to workers to prepare them for the task.

The Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare requires decontamination operators be given at least 5.5 hours of special training to each individual in accordance with the Industrial Safety and Health Law.

The training includes a lecture on potential health hazards and how to operate decontamination equipment as their job involves handling soil polluted by radioactive materials.

The 52-year-old representative of the company admitted wrongdoing in an interview with The Asahi Shimbun.

We had to hire a large number of workers over a short period of time since we received a contract involving a vast swath of land,” he said of the false certificates, of which between 100 and 150 have been discovered.

In addition, the company, a fourth-tier subcontractor, issued seven other kinds of certificates needed to operate an aerial vehicle or chain saw, which were required to land the cleanup contract.

For issuing false certificates, offenders could be imprisoned for up to six months or fined 500,000 yen ($4,800).

But the law has been criticized for having numerous loopholes.

One is that there is not test of workers’ knowledge after they have received the training.

The operators are also not required to register the certificates with municipal authorities.

And it is not specified what qualifications are required for the person who conducts the training.

The Labor Standards office, a regional arm of the health ministry, has been inspecting the company for breaches of the law and regulations on decontamination work since Oct. 19.

The Zerutech Tohoku representative founded the company in March last year.

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

Tepco’s hazmat suit guideline decreases burden on workers during summer heat



Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc., operator of the crippled Fukushima No. 1 power plant, has been revising guidelines for when workers need to wear full masks with hazmat suits or less-bulky outfits to improve their working conditions during the scorching summer.

While a full-body outfit limits radiation exposure, hazmat suits and full masks have been a heavy burden for workers because they restrict movement and make it difficult to breathe, prompting Tepco to revise the guidelines on their usage.

In March, Tepco changed the guidelines, dividing the premises into three areas.

In the area where radiation levels remain high, including inside reactor buildings 1, 2 and 3, workers will need to wear a full mask and disposable hazmat suit with a raincoat-like outer layer.

Workers meanwhile will need to wear full or half masks with hazmat suits in areas where radiation levels are lower, such as near tanks filled with radiation-tainted water. In the remaining area, the majority of which has low levels of radiation, workers only need to use disposable masks and their usual work outfits, Tepco said.

According to the utility, out of about 5,000 to 6,000 workers on the premises, about 47 percent were required to wear a full mask in June, down from about 66 percent in January, before the guidelines were changed.

Those who are required to wear a half mask increased to 48 percent from 28 percent in the same period, it said.

Before the guidelines were revised, about 8,000 disposable hazmat suits were used per day, but the number declined to about 4,000.

Even as hazmat suit requirements have halved, radiation exposure cases have remained unchanged at an average of two a day, Tepco said, adding that the risk of radiation exposure has not increased.

Tepco said it will offer summer outfits at the beginning of this month to lessen the chance of workers succumbing to heatstroke.

In July, the health ministry opened a health care office at J-Village near the Fukushima No. 1 power plant so that its workers can seek free health consultations from doctors who are versed in radiation exposure.

“During the summer period, the health of workers tends to worsen due to heatstrokes as well as other illnesses, so we need to step up measures to resolve the situation,” said a heath ministry official.

August 3, 2016 Posted by | Fukushima 2016 | , | Leave a comment

Glass Encapsulated Insoluble Cesium Particles Lodged in the Fukushima Workers Lungs





A study published in March of 2016 found insoluble cesium lodged in the lungs of some of the highly exposed Fukushima disaster response workers. After doing additional scans they found most of that persistent cesium contamination resided in the workers lungs.

Direct measurements of seven highly exposed workers at the Tokyo Electric Power Company Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station accident have been performed continuously since June2011.

Caesium clearance in the monitored workers is in agreement with the biokinetic models proposed by the International Commission on Radiological Protection. After 500 days from the initial measurement, however, the caesium clearance slowed.

It was thought to be unlikely that additional Cs intake had occurred after the initial intake, as activity in foods was kept low. And, the contribution from the detector over the chest was enhanced with time. This indicates that insoluble Cs particles were inhaled and along metabolic rate showed.

The study concludes that insoluble cesium particles lodged in the workers lungs, preventing them from leaving the body through normal processes.

“The subjects seem to have inhaled insoluble caesium particles, even though it was only a small amount. At present, it is more plausible that the retention curves reported here were due to inhalation of a mixture of type F caesium (soluble particle) and type S caesium (insoluble particle).”

This finding is significant as it shows how the various kinds of insoluble radioactive cesium materials discovered after the initial disaster, both black substances and the glass spheres could contaminate the human body.

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July 21, 2016 Posted by | Fukushima 2016 | , , , , | 1 Comment

Fukushima cops launch search for decontamination worker’s body



Police received a tip about the burial of the body of male decontamination employee at the office of a construction company

FUKUSHIMA (TR) – Fukushima Prefectural Police have started to excavate a yard in Iwaki City after receiving a tip about the burial of a man’s corpse, reports Fuji News Network (May 16).

On Sunday, investigators using a backhoe began digging on the premises of a construction company, located in the Hisanohama area, after receiving a tip that the body of male decontamination employee had been buried there in the fall of last year.

During the work, police discovered items belonging to the man. The search for his body is expected to continue today.

Police suspect that the case is the result of a crime involving  six male decontamination employees.


May 16, 2016 Posted by | Fukushima 2016 | , , | Leave a comment

Despite all the misery, nuclear facility vital part of people’s lives Part 2


A former fisherman who ended up working full-time at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant harbors mixed feelings about his job choice.

Editor’s note: This is the second installment of a three-part series on conditions that contract workers face at the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.

* * *

For those living in coastal areas of Fukushima Prefecture, the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant is a bit like the proverbial elephant in the living room, in that it looms large in their lives.

Although the plant unleashed untold havoc five years ago, many people find it unsettling to badmouth the site to which they have owed their economic well-being–even after the disaster.

Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s sprawling nuclear complex provided them with coveted employment that made the difference between making do and doing without in an otherwise depressed local economy.

One local resident, a onetime fisherman, summed up the thoughts of people in the area by saying: “You cannot deny having a sense of gratitude if you have lived in this coastal region. It is not a question of like or dislike.”

Born in a community close to the crash of waves, the man aspired from an early age to become a fisherman.

He loved the sea so much that he even stopped attending high school for several months to work on a boat trawling for Pacific saury.

He eventually quit high school to make his living by fishing full-time.

Local fishermen can be away from home for months at a time, traveling to distant parts of the globe and danger. The longest time the man had been away was 10 months.

He recalled fishing for squid off Argentina shortly after the Falkland War ended in 1982 and witnessing a ship coming under fire and sinking because the vessel had intruded into the country’s territorial waters.

He began a stint at the Fukushima plant in around 1972, about a year after the plant opened. Although he was a full-time fisherman, the man sought to supplement his income when it was off-season for fishing.

As prices for fish continued to stagnate, he eventually quit fishing altogether in 1989 to become a full-time worker at the Fukushima plant.

Ever since, his life revolved around his work at the site–until the disaster triggered by the Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami on March 11, 2011.

After a break of a couple of months in the aftermath of the triple meltdown, the man returned to the plant to work on ventilation equipment at a reactor building.

He was hired by a construction company based near the crippled facility.

Back in the 1970s, the man recalled that subcontractors were lax about the handling of radioactive materials.

“Workers did not follow the set rules as strictly as today,” he said.

They occasionally disposed of pipes and other radioactive waste generated at reactor buildings manually, although they were expected to use a machine for the task.

His responsibility also involved checking pipes for cracks.

To detect a flaw in piping, it was a standard procedure then, as it is now, to conduct a liquid penetrant test.

Workers paint pipes with a red solution and wipe them after a while.

The penetrant remains inside the damaged parts. Workers then coat the pipes with “developing fluid,” which is a mixture of highly volatile liquid such as thinner and some sort of white powder.

Red stains left in the flawed sections emerge in the process so that workers can identify parts that need to be repaired.

However, they would skip making needed repairs when they feared they would not be able to meet the deadline for the work they had been assigned to do.

“We deliberately did not paint red penetrant to the parts that we knew were damaged,” he recalled.

The man said his crew had no choice.

“The contractor told us to make out a report for all the mistakes we made, but we knew we would be better off not doing so because we would be certainly slapped with a penalty for the errors we would have reported,” he said. “As long as the nature of relations between a contractor and a subcontractor remained that of a higher and lower rung of a pyramid, attempts to cover up oversight were bound to continue.”

When the magnitude-9.0 earthquake struck, the man was in the basement of a reactor building.

An inspection was under way at the time to check whether the replacement of parts he had just finished was done properly.

The man heard metallic clanks from a floor above as if two huge objects had collided with each other.

He was desperate to flee right away, but could not. The stairs were shaking so violently that he was unable to climb them. The man was only able to climb ladders and reach safety after the vibrations had subsided.

Ensuing tsunami swept into the compound, but did not reach the office where he took refuge.

He managed to return home that night.

Later, he learned that the last people to leave the plant were engineers who handled valves.

These were the men who knew exactly which direction water will flow when a particular pipe valve was opened.

“All of us hired by a contractor and subcontractors remained on-site after the other workers had left,” a valve engineer told him.

The man returned to work at the plant around May 2011.

The company initially stated that the men would not have to work at the plant. But one day, the president of the company summoned them to a canteen and apologetically told them they had to.

“It is far from my intention to accept work at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant, but I would be out of a job if we refused,” he said. “I am sorry to have to say this, but I registered you as reserve workers for the plant.”

The president said executives of a contractor had assembled the presidents of subcontractors to ask them to secure manpower for the plant.

One of the presidents demanded an extra allowance for the radiation risks in return.

“The current terms and conditions are unacceptable,” the president said. “We request you provide more hazard pay.”

Then one of the executives of the contractor declared: “We will not partner with a subcontractor that puts money first.”

Some subcontractors went along with the contractor, including the man’s company, while others refused.

When he was a full-time fisherman, the man and his peers were opposed to the plant.

“We believed that warm, discharged water from the plant would cause a change in the ecosystem in waters nearby,” he said.

Still, it was the nuclear power plant that provided him with a job to make a living over nearly four decades.

“Subcontractors have heavily relied on work at the plant as a source of their revenues before and even after the accident,” he said. “Thanks to the contracts with the plant, some companies grew into larger ones and others succeeded in improving their technological skills.”

April 11, 2016 Posted by | Fukushima 2016 | , , | Leave a comment

Braving danger and radiation for chance to earn 11,000 yen a day Part 1


A one-year contract signed by a man from Nagano Prefecture and a subcontractor for the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant. Part of the image was modified for privacy reasons.

Editor’s note: An army of workers, 6,000 or so, battles daily on the front line of the stricken Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant to get the site ready for the decades-long process of decommissioning the reactors.

An overwhelming majority of the men are hired by subcontractors and endure low pay, fragile job security and hazardous working conditions. Radiation exposure is a constant risk.

This three-part series is intended to shed light on conditions at the plant and how the people working there feel about their jobs.


It is winter and still dark when the man awakes at 3:30 a.m. to start his working day. He begins by putting on five layers of clothing under his protective gear, and dons two pairs of gloves and socks, the insides of which are stuffed with disposable hand warmers.

But even then, the 36-year-old native of Iwaki, Fukushima Prefecture, is cold.

Thirty minutes later, a cutting breeze blows from the ocean as the man climbs into a car ordered by his employer to take him to the J-Village facility, where the workers board buses to transport them to the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant 20 kilometers away. The man’s job is to lay pipes containing contaminated water at the complex. He works for a fourth-tier subcontractor with Tokyo Electric Power Co., operator of the plant.

Five years after the triple meltdown, the plant premises are much tidier than in the immediate aftermath of the disaster. Today, the ground is covered with steel sheets.

However, the steel frames of the reactor buildings still stand exposed because the concrete walls were blown out in hydrogen explosions triggered by the overheating of reactor cores.

Inevitably, jobs near the reactor buildings pose radiation risks.

“The closer you get to the reactor buildings, the higher the radiation readings,” the man said. He is required to carry a dosimeter whenever he is on-site.

Each time the man’s dose climbs by 0.16 millisievert, an alarm sounds. If the alarm goes off three times in a single shift, he must stop what he is doing, no matter what work remains to be done.

With a full-face mask and protective gear, working in summer months can be more grueling–and even life-threatening.

He packs ice cubes under his clothes to keep cool, but they melt within 30 minutes.

One summer day, he saw a middle-aged man lying on the floor of a lounge where the workers congregate during their break.

The man had collapsed after the end of his shift. Although the individual was airlifted to a hospital by helicopter, he apparently died of heatstroke.

When the magnitude-9.0 Great East Japan Earthquake struck, the Iwaki man was working inside the No. 1 reactor building. The power went out and in the darkness he heard a loud crashing noise, as if a piece of equipment had suddenly ground to a halt.

He fled the building as fast as he could.

Fissures dotted the concrete surface of the ground and shards of glass were everywhere.

The man took refuge in a structure in the compound known as the “company building.”

A roll call was taken to check that everybody was safe, and then he and his colleagues were dismissed in the evening.

The Iwaki man did not recall seeing the effects of the tsunami on his way home, which he reached at 8 p.m. By that time, he was running a fever and itched all over his body, probably the result of a stressful and nerve-racking day.

A hydrogen explosion rocked the No. 1 reactor building the following day, March 12.

Several days later, the man and his family evacuated to Nagoya, where he has relatives.

But around May, the president of the company he had worked for called and asked him to consider returning to the plant.

After giving the matter some thought, the Iwaki man accepted. His daughter had just turned 1 year old. He had a family to raise. Leaving his family behind, the man returned to Fukushima for a job that pays 11,000 yen ($97) a day.


A 44-year-old man from Nagano Prefecture landed a short-term position at the plant in 2012 after scouring job ads online.

“I wanted to help contain the spread of radioactive contamination,” said the man, who previously worked in a local car dealership.

Shortly after replying to the ad, he was contacted by a subcontractor.

“We have a job to measure workers’ radiation levels,” the man was told. “It does not entail exposure to high levels of radiation.”

Relieved, the man headed to Iwaki and signed a one-year contract with a company that called itself a fourth-tier subcontractor.

But when he attended a briefing held by a first-tier subcontractor several days later, he learned that the initial job description was far different from what he had just been told.

“As you know, you will be working in an area where radiation levels are high. That’s because the mixers for contaminated water are there,” the official said. “You will be able to stay in the area for five to 10 minutes, no longer.”

The official added that the men would not be involved in replacing the mixers themselves as that is done by veteran workers.

What he and the others were required to do was lay rubber mats on the floor to lower those workers’ radiation exposure to enable them to stay longer.

He was also told that workers have to carry breathing apparatus on their backs.

The Nagano man, upset by what he had just learned about the job, protested to the president of the fourth-tier subcontractor afterward.

“It would be impossible for me to continue with this job as long as for a year if I had such a high level of radiation dose,” he said. “This is not what I signed up for.”

The president tried to appease him.

“Even if you had a reading of 1 millisievert a day, it would halve in a week,” the president said. “If you quit at this stage, the company’s reputation would be jeopardized.”

As it happened, the assignment involving high radiation risks was canceled at the last minute.

Instead, the workers were required to clear the glass shards in the compound.

During a break on the first day of his job, in June 2012, he struck up a conversation with a regular employee of a first-tier subcontractor.

“Would you allow your son to work in a job that gives out several millisieverts of exposure a day?” he asked the middle-aged man.

The employee replied: “It will not be a problem legally, but I would not (send my son to do that kind of work).”

On his way back to his lodgings, the president of the fourth-tier subcontractor called him. He was told to stop by at the office of a third-tier subcontractor.

When he showed up, he was met by someone he didn’t know.

“What you said at the work site gave us problems,” the stranger said. “You do not need to come to work anymore.”

After arguing with the official, the man returned to Nagano Prefecture three days later.

Later, he noticed his bank account had been credited to the tune of 24,000 yen, reflecting what was left over from several days of wages after accommodation costs had been deducted.

The man said he still has no idea at what point the original assignment to measure radiation doses was switched to one that was, without question, dangerous.


april 5, 2016.jpg

April 11, 2016 Posted by | Fukushima 2016 | , , | Leave a comment

Cheated every step of the way: a raw deal from subcontractors Part 3


Two types of monthly paychecks a man in Iwaki, Fukushima Prefecture, received. The payslip issued by a waterworks company in January 2015, right, stated the company paid him 236,828 yen. A cleaning company’s hand-written pay details mention the sum of 204,328 yen. Parts of the images were modified for privacy reasons.

Editor’s note: This is the last installment of a three-part series on conditions that contract workers face at the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.

* * *

It’s a dirty job, but somebody’s gotta do it.

And that sums up what contract workers are facing, having signed up for jobs to clean up the wrecked Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.

These men are positioned near the bottom of a pyramid of a multilayered hiring system, and get shunted off to dangerous work on the ground–often without due compensation.

One man who quit working at the plant last October was simply fed up with being shortchanged, especially as the work he did was potentially hazardous to his health.

“My pay was doubly skimmed off,” said the 27-year-old, who is from Iwaki in the prefecture.

The man’s case seems to be anything but exceptional because of a hiring system at the plant in which layers of subcontractors often skim off their shares as they assign work to companies below them.

The man signed on with a cleaning company in late 2012 to do decontamination work in Naraha, a stricken town near the plant. There was no written contract for his employment, just a verbal arrangement.

Then in March 2014, the cleaning company referred him to a “better-paying job” at the plant and asked him to sign a contract with a local waterworks company for the assignment.

His written contract with the waterworks company stated that his daily wage would be 15,500 yen ($137).

But the cleaning company, from which the man received his pay for work performed on behalf of the waterworks firm, told him that he would actually get 2,500 yen less than promised. It cited “miscellaneous expenses.”

“Our company cannot continue to operate without funds,” said an official with the cleaning company by way of explaining the discrepancy.

The cleaning company took possession of the man’s bank passbook and seal, and withdrew all the money the waterworks company paid into his bank account.

The cleaning company handed him a monthly salary in cash that was calculated on the basis of 13,000 yen per day.

He was also given two payslips: one stating a salary based on a daily wage of 15,500 yen and the other for 13,000 yen.

After working at the plant for 18 months or so, the man learned that he was being gypped more than he had realized. What the waterworks company actually paid to the cleaning company as his monthly salary was computed on the basis of a daily wage of 20,000 yen.

When he confronted the cleaning company, an official was evasive.

“It was a referral fee,” the official said of the gap. “We will raise your salary.”

Growing distrustful, the man quit the cleaning company in October.

In an interview with The Asahi Shimbun, a female representative at the cleaning company said it had never engaged in fraudulent activities.

“It is true that we kept his bank passbook,” she said. “We did it to withdraw money on his behalf since he could not go to the bank on pay day due to work.”

Plant operator Tokyo Electric Power Co. announced it was doubling hazard pay to 20,000 yen a day in November 2013 to help bolster morale among workers and secure manpower.

The problem is that TEPCO pays the contractors directly, so whether the money actually trickles down to subcontractors–and contract workers they employ–is a separate issue.

In the case of the Iwaki man, his payslip prepared by the waterworks company showed 7,000 yen in hazard pay out of the daily wage of 15,500 yen.

The hand-written slip created by the cleaning company, however, did not have an entry for danger allowance.

Still, the man was involved in work that carried radiation risks, and, in his opinion, with less than adequate protection.

His job at the plant was to install fire hydrants. Radiation readings on the dosimeters that workers were required to carry climbed as his work progressed because the water pipes for hydrants are extended toward the reactor buildings.

Although technicians working near the reactor buildings donned lead vests to shield themselves from radiation, the man had to make do with only protective suits.

On one occasion, his dosimeter started beeping loudly as he approached a reactor building. “Flee!” his boss shouted.

“My work was dangerous,” said the man. “I find it totally unacceptable that my pay was comparable to the money paid for a cleanup assignment.”

Tsuguo Hirota, a lawyer from Fukushima Prefecture who has been involved in lawsuits over back pay of hazard and other allowances for contract workers, said the multitiered hiring system at the plant is at the heart of the problem.

“If the system to repeatedly outsource work to subcontractors were not altered, the practice of skimming off (workers’ salaries) would still be continuing,” he said.

In one case, he said a leading construction company paid a daily wage of 43,000 yen per employee. But all a worker at a third-tier subcontractor ended up with was 11,500 yen.

On the other hand, the skimming of salaries is no longer a widespread practice in the cleanup operation commissioned by the Environment Ministry, although it was the case in the immediate aftermath of the 2011 triple meltdown.

When the ministry places an order with a contractor, its deal includes a clause requiring that designated hazard pay must be paid to workers hired by subcontractors.

But no similar arrangements have been made at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.

Other problems inherent in a multilayered hiring system center on ultimate responsibility for ensuring the safety of contract workers at the plant and tracking their accumulative radiation exposure over a long period.

When the Iwaki man worked at the plant, he received instructions from the waterworks company, a third-tier subcontractor, on how to perform his tasks. But a second-tier subcontractor and the cleaning company also told him how to do his job, which could have been unlawful.

According to a TEPCO survey last autumn, 14.2 percent of respondents, or 465 workers, said the company that pays their wages is different from the one that gives direction on how to do the job.

Takeshi Katsura, a staff member of the Fukushima nuclear power plant workers’ consultation center, a private group in Iwaki, urged subcontractors to have a greater sense of responsibility for their workers.

“Even five years after the accident, some are working on a mere verbal arrangement,” he said. “A company that concluded a contract with workers should responsibly oversee their wages, safety, social security programs and other work-related matters.”

April 11, 2016 Posted by | Fukushima 2016 | , , | Leave a comment