Calm at J. Village belies the danger

Crisis worker woes, shortage another story

Tokyo Electric Power Co. on Friday for the first time let reporters into the base camp for thousands of workers striving every day to fix the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant, showing off new dining facilities, a dormitory for single workers and the latest radioactivity monitors to check vehicles and clothing.

What wasn’t readily apparent, however, is the number of temporary dispatch workers without job or health insurance, and who face the ax once their radiation exposure tops out, according to a municipal assembly member from a nearby city.

But despite significant improvements in services and facilities at J. Village [a former soccer training complex now being used by Tepco], serious problems have remained for workers at Fukushima No. 1, insiders say.

Hiroyuki Watanabe, a member of the Iwaki Municipal Assembly, has interviewed about 20 nuclear plant workers and some have told him conditions were extremely bad. Some even claimed they only had a verbal contract for the job.

Many were sent by subcontractor dispatch companies that do not provide job or health insurance, which is illegal, Watanabe said.

The workers are often abandoned by personnel companies once their cumulative radiation exposure exceeds the legal limits, Watanabe said.

“For example, one worker kept working at the Fukushima No. 1 plant for more than 10 years. Even after the accident, he kept working and he was fired after his dose exceeded 40 millisieverts,” Watanabe said. “He had once falsified his exposure records so he would not lose his job.”