Fukushima nuclear workers rally against plant operator

Mar 14, 2014 by Harumi Ozawa
Fukushima nuclear workers and their supporters shout slogans outside the headquarters of Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) on March 14, 2014

Fukushima nuclear plant workers rallied outside the headquarters of operator Tokyo Electric Power on Friday, complaining they were forced to work for meagre pay in dangerous conditions.

The group of about 100 demonstrators shouted and pumped their fists in the air as they railed against being cheated by contractors hired to find recruits to clean up the shattered site and surrounding area.

"Workers at the Fukushima plant have been forced to do unreasonable tasks with no decent safety measures," said one man in his thirties, who declined to give his name.

He said he was laid off after several months in the job due to heavy radiation exposure.

"Workers are forced to handle in such grim working , where any human being should not be put to work," he said.

"They tend to make easy mistakes under the pressure, but it's not they who are at fault—it's the conditions that force them to do terrible tasks."

Three years since a towering wall of water plunged the Fukushima nuclear plant into darkness on March 11, 2011 and sent reactors into meltdown, plant workers have yet to even start dismantling the crippled reactors.

The decommissioning process is expected to stretch over decades.

Several thousand employees at the plant are locked in a daily—and dangerous—scramble to keep the site as safe as possible, making myriad repairs and building tanks for the vast amounts of water contaminated after being used to cool reactors.

The country's 50 atomic reactors have been shuttered in the wake of the worst nuclear accident in a generation.

On Thursday, Japan moved closer to restarting a pair of reactors in the southern part of the country, with the nuclear regulator saying it would conduct safety checks.

But winning the backing of local officials and an atomic-weary population will be a major hurdle to re-starting the .

On Friday, demonstrators also rallied outside the office of Maeda Corp., one of the contractors hired to run clean-up operations at the plant and in surrounding areas.

Questions have swirled about the created by the web of Fukushima contractors and sub-contractors.

Some demonstrators said they received far less pay than promised as various layers of bosses docked money for supplying meals, transportation and other expenses.

They also said many had not received a 10,000 yen ($98) daily premium for decontamination work.

"Most people are working for small pay without getting the special compensation," said a 51-year-old man, who said he was doing clean-up work near the plant.

Maeda Corp. did not immediately respond to a request for comment about working conditions in the stricken area.

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1 / 5 (2) Mar 15, 2014
The focus here is on safety, but in the US nuclear power would not be cost competitive without US taxpayer responsibility for the transportation, security, and storage of spent nuclear fuel; not only for our own but also all that we sell; and in perpetuity.

Without the taxpayer footing this very significant and incalculable cost of doing business the industry could not survive.

Even when the industry was contributing to the Nuclear Waste Fund at the 1/10 of one cent per KWH rate there was little incentive to evolve the technology. Now that the industry pays nothing and the taxpayer foots the entire bill, there is no incentive at all.

By design the taxpayer obligation is unalterable by regulatory amendment because our commitments are contractual.

As our agent the DOE did not bargain in good faith on behalf of the taxpayer, the contracts should be made null and void, what money the industry did pay into the fund returned with interest, and allow the industry to stand on its own.
not rated yet Mar 17, 2014
I find this as one of the greatest failures in the government structure down there. During the crisis in Chernobyl, the government did a clean up very fast and many firefighters lost their decades and years and all of their lives near after the incident. Thanks to them, the the fallout was not as bad as they could've been.

As there is a great example of failure in powerplant in past, they should have been far more careful. After tsunami, of course people needed power, with a damanged powerplant, all they needed to do was to shut the freaking plant down. The design is still based on steam turning turbine and basically they were trying to boil a kettle with no water in it. It's extremely dumb how the melt down even happened in the first place.

If anything, it should be the idiots that made those specific decisions to go there and work in that condition to clean it up, not the workers in the first place. Now trying to send the workers in the area for clean up.

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