Fukushima Workers Faced Death, Now Struggle With Working Conditions And TEPCO Secrecy

Many workers at Fukushima Daiichi the day the quake and tsunami hit thought they might die. Between the natural disaster, power loss at the plant, ensuing meltdowns and massive hydrogen explosions it must have been some terrifying days.

Reports released as part of TEPCO’s recent report showed some of what the workers faced.

“We put on the full protection gear but couldn’t possibly let young workers do the task, as we had to go into an area where the radiation levels were high,” one worker recalled.
“When I got to the place to open the valve, I heard eerie, deep popping noise from the torus (a donut-shaped structure at the bottom of the reactor),” he said.
“When I put one of my feet on the torus to reach the valve, my black rubber boot melted and slipped (due to the heat).”

 

Workers told of horrible conditions early on. Some didn’t have dosimeters or proper respirator masks. They survived on crackers and water and slept on the floor of a gym. Gradually certain conditions improved after the media and the Labor Ministry put pressure on TEPCO. Problems still exist. Many workers have said they only received a portion of their promised pay or that what they get from their sub contracting company they know is a fraction of what TEPCO workers or others are being paid. Multiple complaints have been made that Yakuza members are working at the plant, something TEPCO has avoided dealing with. TEPCO has also turned a blind eye to sub-contractors underpaying workers. A city counselor from Iwaki has been collecting files on the safety violations and worker abuse going on at Fukushima. Making things worse are clauses in all workers contracts forbidding them from speaking to the media. Many still do but risk losing their jobs.

Vanity Fair recently did a photo shoot of workers living in Iwaki while they work at the Fukushima Daiichi site.

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