Most Workers at Japanese Nuclear Plants are Contract Laborers
Thursday, April 14, 2011
Transferring contaminated workers at Fukushima
More than 80,000 workers operate Japan’s 18 nuclear power plants, but nearly 90% of them are not employees. Those manning the complex, potentially dangerous facilities are contractors who receive varying levels of pay and benefits, depending on what tier of hired help they represent (contractor, subcontractor or sub-subcontractor).
At the Fukushima Daiichi plant, 89% of the 10,303 workers there last year were contract laborers. Japan’s Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency, which regulates the industry, says these contractors were exposed to levels of radiation about 16 times as high as the levels faced by Tokyo Electric employees in 2010.
These workers have been critical players at the Fukushima nuclear plant, performing tasks that have possibly exposed them to lethal doses of radiation. These include struggling against extreme heat while cleaning off radiation from the reactors’ drywells and spent-fuel pools using mops and rags and toiling in the cold to fill drums with contaminated waste.
According to The New York Times, since the mid-1970s, about 50 nuclear workers in Japan have received compensation for cancer. The two workers who stepped in radioactive water two weeks ago were subcontract employees.
Both Hitachi and Toshiba have already submitted proposals for long-term, decades-long clean-up of the Fukushima plant after Tokyo Electric had brought the reactors under control.
-Noel Brinkerhoff, David Wallechinsky
Japanese Workers Braved Radiation for a Temp Job (by Hiroko Tabuchi, New York Times)
Hitachi, Toshiba Vie for Nuclear Clean-Up Contract (by Juro Osawa, Wall Street Journal)
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