GOOD READ: Japan's Nuclear Nightmare, Parts I and II
- Japan’s Nuclear Nightmare
Posted on March 18, 2011 by Tim Shorrock
Part One: Japan, Democracy, and the Globalization of Nuclear Power(Updated throughout 3/20/2011)
Part Two:Nuclear Gypsies (posted 3/20/2011)
Update: My interview about the Japanese nuclear crisis on RT’s Alyona Show on 3/18/2011.
Since I woke up last Friday, I’ve
been monitoring the terrible earthquake and tsunami that hit Japan and
watching with horror as the Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s nuclear complex
in Fukushima transformed a natural catastrophe into an environmental
crisis of the first order. It’s been a painful experience because I grew up in Tokyo, have a Japanese step-mother, and have many friends, both American and Japanese, living there.
The unfolding nuclear disaster has also
triggered memories of the times I spent in Japan as a journalist in the
1980s, when I wrote for and worked closely with a Japanese citizen’s
group called Pacific Asia Resource Center (PARC), which was organized in the 1960s by Japanese antiwar, environmental and labor activists and became a regional center that build close ties with people’s movements throughout Asia. One of the activists I met during
that time was the lateDr. Jinzaburo Takagi, who went to co-found the Citizens’ Nuclear Information Center (CNIC), Japan’s most prominent opponent of nuclear energy and an important
source of news and information about the current crisis at Fukushima
(click here for CNIC’s statement on the crisis).
Because of that experience, I was quite familiar with TEPCO, the
world’s third-largest utility, and its long history of falsifying
records and playing down the dangers of atomic power and radiation.
Partly out of that knowledge, I posted my story, “TEPCO’s Shady History,” on March 14.
But, as my friends and family know, I’m a pack rat, and my apartment
in Northwest Washington, D.C, is filled with dozens of boxes of files
from my years as an Asian-focused journalist. It turns out that many of
my first articles were about nuclear power and U.S. nuclear exports to
the region. This week I’ve been digging threw my archives and have found some timely – and disturbing – reports from myself and others on the
nuclear industry, its labor force (many of whom were low-wage
subcontractors called “nuclear gypsies” who did the most dangerous
tasks), and how the industry subverted both the environment and Japan’s
Many of these articles were published in AMPO, PARC’S news and research quarterly, and other movement publications (“AMPO” is short for the U.S.-Japanese Security Treaty, which was a prime target of the Japanese antiwar movement for much of
the 1960s and 1970s). I want to share some excerpts of this work to shed light on the history of nuclear power in Japan and on TEPCO’s Fukushima plant itself. I’ve scanned many of these articles so you can read them
in full for yourself.
I begin this primer with an article I co-authored with Peter Hayes,
an Australian writer and activist who for many years has directed the Nautilus Institute, a think-tank that focuses on Northeast Asian energy and political
issues (Peter has been interviewed extensively in the media about the
Japan disaster, as you can see on the website). Our AMPO article (PDF) was mostly about South Korea, which has a massive nuclear power industry as well as a robust anti-nuclear movement. But we went back and traced how the nuclear industry spread globally, first in Europe and then in Asia:
Dumping Reactors in Asia. AMPO/1982
The nuclear industry was born a deformed monster in Japan when the U.S. warplane Enola Gay dropped atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945. Afterwards, the U.S.
attempted to monopolize nuclear technology, until the Soviet Union
exploded the dream in 1949. In December 1955, U.S. President Eisenhower
announced a second birth in the nuclear family, the “Atoms for Peace”
program. It was designed from the start as a global industry whose
technology would be provided by U.S. companies. By 1956, the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission and the U.S. Export-Import Bank (Eximbank) had agreed to assist two dozen countries which entered “Agreement for Cooperation” with cheap, subsidized money, enriched uranium and technical assistance worth (at the time) $250 million.
But this commercial “kid brother” of the nuclear bomb
grew slowly. While the military spawned dozens of nuclear-powered
submarines – a lucrative market for nuclear vendors like Westinghouse –
the first flush of nuclear enthusiasm procuded mostly small research
reactor sales in the United States. Power reactor sites in the U.S. were stalled during the late 1950s by the debate over private-versus-public
atomic power. It was the European stampede for nuclear power known as “Eurotom” (or European Atomic Energy Community, founded in 1957) that provided
the first great opportunity for U.S. nuclear vendors – an opportunity
precluded at home by political forces and economic constraints. This
story was repeated in Asia in the 1970s.
From their European springboard, the U.S. light water
reactor manufacturers plunged aggressively into the U.S. market,
beginning with the Oyster Creek General Electric plant in 1963 (Note: it remains the oldest operating nuclear power plant in the U.S., and shares the same design share as the reactors at the Fukushima
Daiichi complex). This project was quickly followed up by eight more
“loss leader” plants where vendors charged buyers less than cost to
establish a market. From the turnkey market, the industry leapt to the
“bandwagon” market, with U.S. utilities jostling to place 104 orders
between 1966 and 197o. After 1962, the U.S. industry moved quickly to
adopt partners overseas. In Japan, GE licenced Toshiba (which built the
Fukushima reactors using GE technology) and Hitachi. In France,
Westinghouse licensed Framatone…
Then it happened: the Bandwagon crashed into a wall of
anti-nucleaer action, safety regulations, escalating cost, declining
electricity demand, utility generating over-capacity and technological
failure – all culminating in Three Mile Island in 1979…A wave of order
cancellations and deferrals hit the industry in the stomach.
Since then, the U.S. industry has never been the same – and has
looked overseas, in countries like Japan, South Korea and now China, for its sales. In a sign of the times, Westinghouse, once the biggest name
in the nuclear industry, was sold in 2006 to Japan’s Toshiba, the maker
of the Fukushima reactors.
The current state of the Japanese nuclear industry. Japan’s first commercial reactor began operating in 1966, and nuclear energy
has been a national priority since 1973. Currently, the country’s 55
reactors provide some 30 percent of Japan’s electricity. That figure is
expected to increase to at least 40 percent by 2017, according to the World Nuclear Association, an industry group (the source of the graphic to the left – click here for a CNIC map of all nuclear power projects in Asia).
But as the proverbial song goes, “there’s a hole in the bucket, dear
Henry, dear Henry, there’s a hole in the bucket, dear Henry, a hole.” In fact, there’s several big holes: I’m speaking of the industry’s and
government’s tendency to play up the positives of nuclear power and
ignore its many downsides; the undemocratic nature of the siting and
building process, which has historically excluded citizens’ groups and
made it very hard to oppose – let alone block – the construction of new
plants; and the two-tiered labor system, which has created an underclass of contract workers – “nuclear gypsies” – who do the dirty work at the
plants and suffer the most from radiation and other industrial diseases.
I first became aware of the seriousness of these issues in 1981.
During one of my visits to Japan, the media was filled with stories
about a major radioactive spill at the Tsuruga Nuclear Power Plant in Fukui Prefecture. As recounted in History.com:
Tsuruga lies near Wakasa Bay on the west coast of Japan. Approximately 60,000 people lived in the area surrounding the atomic
power plant. On March 9, a worker forgot to shut a critical valve,
causing a radioactive sludge tank to overflow. Fifty-six workers were
sent in to mop up the radioactive sludge before the leak could escape
the disposal building, but the plan was not successful and 16 tons of
waste spilled into Wakasa Bay.
Despite the obvious risk to people eating contaminated
fish caught in the bay, Japan’s Atomic Power Commission made no public
mention of the accident or spill. The public was told nothing of the
accident until more than a month later, when a newspaper caught wind of and reported the story. By then, seaweed in the area was found to
have radioactive levels 10 times greater than normal. Cobalt-60 levels were 5,000 times higher than previous highs recorded in the area.
Finally, on April 21, the Atomic Power Commission
publicly admitted the nuclear accident but denied that anyone had been
exposed to dangerous levels of radiation. Two days later, the company
running the plant declared that they had not announced the accident
right away because of Japanese emotionalism toward anything nuclear.
The public also learned for the first time that, in an earlier incident at the same plant in January 1981, 45 workers had been exposed to
RESOURCE: Chronology of 1981 Tsuruga Accident from the Japanese press (10 page PDF).
Among the injured workers at Tsuruga were many subcontractors. According to the Japan Times (this article is included in the chronology PDF above):
[The government] said 48 company subcontractors joined in the removal operation…exposing themselves to [radiation]…The staffers
and subcontractors were reported to have tried to dispose of the leaked
waste water using buckets and wiping the floor with cloths thereby
exposing themselves to radioactivity.
According to a later report carried by UPI, quoting Japan’s Natural
Resources and Energy Agency, “the radiation levels were 7,600 to 11,000
times higher than normal readings.” The spill led the Japan Times to declare in an editorial:
What happened at Japan Atomic Power Company’s Tsuruga
plant is more than a crime than an accident…There is little doubt that
the leak of radioactivity there was caused by a faulty design of
facilities and operational errors and the resulting damage magnified by
the company’s willful attempt to hide all this…
>The plant’s operator did not inform the government of theseaccidents. Nor did it notify the inspectors stationed there. No entries
were made in the log, it is said, concerning the leaks. In other words,
the company as well as the plant management tried to “cover up” the
Sadly, this experience has been repeated dozens of times over the past 30 years.
“No Nukes Move Carried by Working Class” — RODO JOHO/1981
The lack of democracy in the hearing process was detailed in RODO JOHO, a newsletter published in the 1980s by a network of militant trade unions (and very similar in style and politicsto Labor Notes in the United States). Part of its organizing included mobilizing
against, and educating about, the public hearing system because it has
historically been so undemocratic:
When a nuclear power plant is to be built, a “public”
hearing is usually held as formality to gain local residents’ approval
and tell them how safe they are. But the “public” hearings are
that in name only. Opposition groups boycott these hearings because they are rigged to ensure the construction of the plants.
When many of Japan’s reactors were in the planning stage, RODO JOHO
and other groups mobilized thousands of local workers and citizens to
protest the lack of transparency at these hearings.
In December 1980, for example, more than 8,000 people, mainly from labor unions, joined local residents at Kashiwazaki in Niigata Prefecture (another TEPCO-owned facility and the largest
generating plant in the world) gathered to protest against this hearing. Over the next few months, the activists built “Solidarity Huts” near
the site and continued their campaign to stop expansion of the plant.
Then, in February 1981, TEPCO obtained a court injunction to remove the
huts and hired workers to forcibly remove them as about 1,000 riot
police stood guard. Here’s how the incident was reported by the Japan Times (PDF):
In a predawn surprise operation, Tokyo Electric Power Co. removed two structure local residents had been using as fortresses in a campaign against the construction of a nuclear power plant the company
is promoting. The operation was conducted as about 1,000 riot police
stood guard in drizzle, but no major trouble occured…Taking notice of
the movement, some 400 opponents assembled at the two structures called
“Solidarity Hut” and “Beach Teahouse” they had built…They sat inside in
an attempt to prevent the removal of the structures….The plant
eventually will have seven reactors…An official of [TEPCO] in charge of
the plant said he was relieved that the huts had been removed.
In 2007, an earthquake in Niigata triggered a serious accident at Kashiwazaki that was covered up by TEPCO, resulting in a government investigation into the company.
In February 1981 6,000 people participated in opposing theShimane “public” hearing (in western Japan). During the hearing, according to a report by the Kyodo News Service,
About 50 opponents, including union leaders, demanded to
[the chairman of the prefectural committee] that petitioners be allowed
to explain their appeals and that spectators be allowed to witness
committee debates. As [the chairman] refused to give in to the
opponents’ demands, the opponents surrounded him and blocked him from
entering the meeting room. The president of the prefectural assembly
called police about 11:30 AM to disperse the demonstrators. In
skirmishes with the demonstrators, police arrested two who entered the
room, on charges of tresspassing…A prefectural organization of labor
unions filed a protest with Matsue police, claiming that the two arrests were made illegally.
In March 1981, about 7,000 demonstrated against a hearing for a plant in Hamaoka. Their protest focused on construction of a nuclear power plant near a zone that scientists believe could be the epicenter of a future earthquake. This action received heavy coverage in the Japanese media, including this story from the Japan Times, via Kyodo News Service (PDF):
A total of some 7,000 protesters, consisting of labor
union members, students and area residents, encircled the Hamaoka Town
Hall and staged an all-night demonstration rally and sit-in…in an
attempt to block the holding of the hearing sponsored by the Nuclear
>The construction of the No. 3 nuclear reactor…has arounsed stongopposition from areas residents concerned about its safety, since
Shizuoka Prefecture is under the constant threat of the Tokai “Great
Earthquake,” which seismologists predict may hit the area in the near
>Demonstrators held an anti-nuclear power symposium at a nearby park,some 1 km away from the town hall…protesting the hearing, which they
called undemocratic. They contended that a hearing held to present government opinion alone is not enough to ensure the safety of area residents.
>Some 1,500 riot policemen were mobilized to check the activities of the opponents.(Interestingly, the reactors used by Chubu Electric Power Co. were
boiling water reactors designed by General Electric, which built the
reactors at Fukushima. According to an April 9, 1981, account by Kyodo, Chubu claimed that the reactors “presented no problem, although the
U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission has reuled that a similar reactor
belong to GE is defective…The NRC pointed out earlier that the cooling
device in the GE’s reactor is defective.”)
Since the 1980s, the nuclear hearing process has improved, according to a 2010 article in Nuke Info Tokyo, CINC’s newsletter:
When agreement has been received for the construction
plan itself, it is possible for the power company to move ahead with the nuclear-specific procedures in parallel with the environmental
assessment process. The first step is the first public hearing. This
hearing is legally required under a decision by the Ministry of Economy
Trade and Industry (METI). METI hosts the meeting and the power company
explains its construction plan. Residents are selected from amongst
those who have submitted public comments to present their opinions about the plan. The power company responds to the residents’ comments, so in
practice, it is not so much a hearing as an explanatory meeting.
However, it provides formal grounds for claiming that the residents’
opinions were taken into considerations in the safety assessment.
Once a plant is granted a license, however, it becomes very difficult to stop the process:
are not more opportunities for public involvement after a reactor
establishment license has been awarded. However, in reality, if the
project is not stopped before the environmental assessment begins, the
process just keeps moving forward. A unique exception was when a plan to construct a reactor in Maki Town Niigata Prefecture (now Niigata City)
was stopped by a local referendum after an application for a reactor
establishment license had already been submitted. The license
application was submitted on January 25, 1982, but the Tohoku Electric
Power Company failed to acquire some of the land for the site, so the
safety review was suspended. A local referendum was held on August 4,
1996, and 60.9% of eligible votes opposed the project. Even then, Tohoku Electric did not withdraw its plan until December 24, 2003.
CNIC therefore urges citizens’ to get involved immediately after a new contruction plan is announced:
If residents want to block a nuclear construction
project, the earlier they do so the better. Effective ways of doing this include preventing the power company from acquiring land for the site,
refusing to relenquish fishing rights and preventing the power company
from obtaining agreement from the local authorities. As mentioned above, regardless of the lack of formal legal authority, no nuclear power
plant will be built without the agreement of the local and prefectural
governments. There are many examples of Japan where local communities
have prevented construction of nuclear power plants in this way.
Still, in the early years of the industry, the unions and citizens’
groups were facing a buzzsaw: the combined forces of the Japanese
government and the powerful nuclear industry.
“Japan’s Nuclear Energy Policies” — AMPO/1992
This article by Japanese researcher
Fukumoto Takao provides a snapshot of how things stood in the nuclear
industry in the early 1990s. It also provided a frightening preview into what has happened in Fukushima over the past couple of days with a look at the 1992 accident at the Kansai Electric Power Co.’s Mihama Nuclear Power Station Unit 2 in Fukui Prefecture, about 250 miles west of Tokyo – the first time an
emergency cooling system had to be used in a Japanese plant. Takao began his story by describing how the nuclear lobby worked.
To promote nuclear power, the government
and electric power lobby have always emphasized atomic energy’s positive elements to allay fears of radioactivity. These positive elements
include: 1) the cost-effectiveness of nuclear power generation compared
to other methods; 20 its alleged high degree of safety; and 3) because
it doesn’t emit carbon dioxide it has a reputation as a clean energy
source…Here a simple question arises. Those who say atomic energy is
less harmful to the environment emphasize only the method of power
generation. How can we ignore the problems of radioactivity, radioactive waste and accidents? Chernobyl showed what happens when an accident
occurs at a nuclear power plant…
Takao then turned to the accident at the Mihama plant in Kansai,
where a heat transfer tube in the steam generator ruptured, triggering
the emergency core cooling sytem – the first time this had happened in
Japan (according to the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation, which tracks such accidents, the Japanese government later reported
that the accident “was caused by human error, some anti-vibration bars
being wrongly installed by workers and sawn off short to make them fit.”) Takao continued:
This was a major accident, the kind
which the government and power companies had assured the public could
never occur…Even more serious is the fact that the accident occured not long after the reactor had undergone a regular inspection. The
assurance the government and power companies had given us was based on
the assumption that any trouble could be spotted through periodic
inspections. The Mihama accident, however, proved that these
inspections cannot be trusted. It offered dramatic evidence that a
nuclear accident can occur anywhere and at any time.
>The Chernobyl accident, which occuredsix years ago, graphically demonstrates the consequences of a nuclear
accident. Chernobyl has taught us both how tragic and pervasive a
nuclear mishap can be: such disasters do not recognize national
borders…The contaminated area extends 950 kilometers east-west and 400
kilometers north-south. This would cover 70 percent to 80 percent of Honshu, Japan’s main island.
If such an accident were to
occur in Japan, the scale of destruction and the number of evacuees
would be 10 times greater than in the former Soviet Union.
Radioactivity emitted from Chernobyl spread over Western Europe, and in this sense, nulcear power plants are potential destroyers of the
global environment. Yet nuclear plants in Japan continue to operate…
Tragically, in 2004 the Kansai plant was against the scene of an
accident that, until the latest disaster, was Japan’s worst nuclear
accident. Four workers died and seven were severely injured when steam
leaked from the reactor. The Japan Times reported at the time:
The 826,000-kilowatt reactor automatically shut down
after the incident, officials at the nation’s second-largest utility
said, adding they believe a lack of cooling water in the plant led to
the accident. No radiation is believed to have leaked outside the
facility, and sources at the Defense Facilities Administration Agency
said Fukui Prefecture officials did not see a need for Self-Defense
Forces elements to be dispatched to the town to assist in disaster
relief. The accident occurred during regular maintenance in a facility
housing the reactor turbines, according to Kepco. The dead and injured
were all employees of Kiuchi Keisoku, a subcontractor based in Tennoji
Ward, Osaka. [The company] said there were about 200 people in the
Those subcontractors, it turns, may be the real victims of the industry – and of the accident at Fukushima.
Japan’s Nuclear Nightmare (Part Two)
>Posted on March 20, 2011 by Tim Shorrockcomplex have burned out of control over the past week, both the foreign
>Nuclear Gypsies – The subcontractors who do the dirty work
>As the six reactors at Tokyo Electric Power Company’s Fukushima power
and Japanese press have been full of stories about the “Fukushima 50″ –
the several hundred workers who have valiantly, in shifts of 50,
struggled to contain the fires and in the process exposed themselves to
serious risks of radiation. They have been rightly hailed as the unsung
heroes of Japan’s earthquake, tsunami and nuclear catastrophe, as noted
by the London Guardian:
>[In Fukushima], plant workers, emergency servicespersonnel and scientists have been battling for the past week to
restore the pumping of water to the Fukushima nuclear plant and to
prevent a meltdown at one of the reactors. A team of about 300 workers – wearing masks, goggles and protective suits sealed with duct tape and
known as the Fukushima 50 because they work in shifts of 50-strong
groups – have captured the attention of the Japanese who have taken
heart from the toil inside the wrecked atom plant. “My eyes well with
tears at the thought of the work they are doing,” Kazuya Aoki, a safety official at Japan’s Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency, told
>On Wednesday, the government raised the cumulative legal limit of radiation that the Fukushima workers could be exposed to from 100 to 250 millisieverts. That is more than 12 times the annual legallimit for workers dealing with radiation under British law. (UPDATE: See the latest article from the Guardian – “The truth about the Fukushima ‘nuclear samurai.’”
>As I noted in my first article in this series, many of the workers exposed to radiation in nuclearaccidents over the years have been subcontracted workers who are often
hired to do the dirtiest and most dangerous work in the nuclear
industry. This has created a two-tier labor system in Japanese nuclear
power plants, with a narrow band of full-time company employees at the
top and a huge number of subcontractors at the bottom (click here for a profile of “Koji,” one of the subcontractors at the Fukushima complex).
>For years, these workers have been known as “genpatsugypsies,” or “nuclear gypsies,” because they often travel from plant to
plant as needs for their services rise and fall. Their stories make some of the saddest tales of all in the Japanese nuclear industry (they’re
not alone; a friend of mine at the Teamsters Union in Washington tells
me the same kind of two-tiered system exists in the U.S. nuclear
industry as well.”)
>The plight of the nuclear gypsies has been well documented. One of the most detailed articles was published 12 years ago in the Los Angeles Times (“System of Disposable Workers,” Column One, December 30, 1999). It described the system this way:at the top of the labor pyramid, who work for the blue-chip giants that
>The elite engineers and highly skilled unionized workers
build and operate Japanese nuclear power plants, are carefully monitored and protected from radiation exposure. However, the majority of nuclear plant workers are employed by subcontractors or their subcontractors,
an arrangement that allows big corporations to avoid major layoffs of
their own people in hard times. Critics say this system diffuses
accountability, makes it impossible to keep tabs on the health of
workers and places responsibility for safety with smaller, less visible
and financially weaker companies.The workers at the bottom of the
socioeconomic food chain–including those allegedly hired by the day from skid rows–receive the least safety education and the highest radiation
doses. According to data from Japan’s Nuclear Safety Commission, of the 71,376 Japanese who are employed in the nuclear power industry,
63,420, or almost 89%, work for subcontractors. It is these employees
who receive more than 90% of all radiation exposure.
>>employees have scant legal protection, activists charge. And
>>Moreover, the casual laborers included among those subcontractor
historically, they have received little or no compensation when
accidents or illnesses occur. “Nuclear labor in Japan is a human rights
problem,” charged photojournalist and author Kenji Higuchi, a nuclear
foe who has spent 27 years documenting alleged safety abuses. “The whole system is based on discrimination…When you go inside a nuclear power
plant, it means you are going to be exposed to radiation. You are paid
to be exposed.”
>In 2000, the problems of these subcontract workers was documented by Nagamitsu Miura, a professor at Tsuda College in Tokyo:operation in 1966, nuclear plants have been maintained not only by
>Since the first nuclear power station in Japan began
engineers but by a variety of other workers. According to the Central
Registration Center of Radiation Workers, the number of nuclear plant
workers in Japan in the fiscal year 1999, amounted to 64,922. About 10%
of them are full-time workers employed by nuclear companies while 90%
are subcontracted workers.
>Thus, the vast majority of the nuclear industry’s laborforce is comprised of temporary employees who work at plants for between 1-3 months at a time. These people are mostly farmers, fishermen or day laborers seeking to supplement their incomes or simply to get by. Some
of them are homeless. They work mainly at nuclear power plants, but they also find jobs at nuclear fuel facilities (refining, processing,
reprocessing and using plants), and at nuclear waste burial and storage
facilities. The workers work twice or thrice a year at the same nuclear
plant or move about to other plants. Thus, the nickname they have been
tagged with by journalists, “genpatsu gypsies” (ie., nuclear nomads).
>In going through my archives on the Japanese nuclear industry, I found a remarkable article in a 1980 issue of AMPO magazine (see Part One) that reviewed three recent books about the nuclear gypsies – publication of which “caused a sensation in Japan.” One of the books was a documentary written by journalist Horie Kunio, whohad “voluntarily worked for a subcontractor in order to learn the actual conditions of the nuclear power plant workers and was himself exposed
to nuclear radiation.” Among the places Horie worked was Tokyo Electric Co.’s now-infamous Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant. According to his book, as recounted by AMPO:
>Workers are recruited from all over the country attracted by a daily wage of 5,000 to 10,000 yen and sent into the plants withhardly any knowledge of radiation. (Until a few years ago the workers
were recruited from slums such as Sanya in Tokyo, Kamagasaki in Osaka
and buraku – where Japanese outcasts live – in the Kansai area.
>Their work includes washing work uniforms which have been contaminated with radiation; mopping up radioactive water; scraping out shells and sludge attached to drains; inspection and repairing, mainlyremoving radioactive dust from the hundreds of parts inside the
reactors. These operations are carried out in a small hole surrounded by radioactivity where workerrs can hardly move, and the workers are often not able to leave to go to the toilet during these operations…At the
Mihama Nuclear Power Plant of Kansai Electric Power Co., where Horie
used to work, a worker is required to apologize to the parent company if he gets injured.
>Another book reviewed by AMPO tells the story of Morie Shin, who worked as a subcontractor of TEPCO:their working contitions, because of the fact that the amount of
>[He] tried very hard to form a union in order to improve
radiation dosage was one of the criteria for evaluating the workers. But he failed, and finally resigned from the company…Being afraid of
pressure from the electric company, he does not reveal his real name.
>According to Morie, many of the Americans subcontracted by General Electric atthe Fukushima plant were African-American (this photograph depicts a
black GE subcontractor at the Fukushima plant in 1980). AMPO wrote:
>Morie shows in detail how the conditions in nuclear power plants make irradiation control difficult. Tokyo Electric’s FukushimaNo. 1 nuclear power plant is said to be the most contaminated nuclear
power plant in the world, and Japan Atomic’s Tsuruga plant (scene of a
major accident in 1981) is also notorious for its loose radiation
control…It is naturally subcontracted workers (and a “foreigners squad”
of black workers sent from the U.S. by General Electric and
Westinghouse) who are to work under such a high radioactive dose.
>RESOURCE: AMPO – “Voices from the Darkness” – 1980material on their faces but were not taken to hospital because the
>According to the IAEA, half of the 19 workers suffering from radiation exposure in the current crisis at Fukushima are subcontractors. On March 17, the Guardian reported:More than 20 Tepco workers, subcontractors, police and firefighters have been reported to the International Atomic Energy Agency as having radiation contamination, according to Yukio Edano, the government’s chief spokesman. Seventeen people had radioactive
level was low. Two policemen were decontaminated after being exposed
and one worker was taken offsite after receiving a dose of radiation
while venting radioactive steam from one of the reactors. An
undisclosed number of firefighters are said to be under observation
after being exposed. At least 25 Tepco workers and subcontractors are
being treated for injuries sustained in explosions at the plant and
>housing the reactor turbines, according to Kepco. The dead and injured
>ing regular maintenance in a facility
were all employees of Kiuchi Keisoku, a subcontractor based in Tennoji
Ward, Osaka. [The company] said there were about 200 people in the
Those subcontractors, it turns, may be the real victims of the industry – and of the accident at Fukushima.
Next: The “nuclear gypsies.”
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