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GOOD READ: Japan's Nuclear Nightmare, Parts I and II

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  • Romi Elnagar
    Japan’s Nuclear Nightmare Posted on March 18, 2011 by Tim Shorrock Part One: Japan, Democracy, and the Globalization of Nuclear Power(Updated throughout
    Message 1 of 1 , Dec 1, 2012
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      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
      democracy.
      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
      radiation.
      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 these
      accidents. 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
      whole thing.
      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
      Safety Commission.
      >The construction of the No. 3 nuclear reactor…has arounsed stong
      opposition 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
      future…
      >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:
      Basically, there
      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 occured
      six 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
      facility.
      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 Shorrock
      >Nuclear Gypsies – The subcontractors who do the dirty work
      >
      >As the six reactors at Tokyo Electric Power Company’s Fukushima power
      complex have burned out of control over the past week, both the foreign
      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 services
      personnel 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
      Reuters…
      >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 legal
      limit 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 nuclear
      accidents 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 “genpatsu
      gypsies,” 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:
      >The elite engineers and highly skilled unionized workers
      at the top of the labor pyramid, who work for the blue-chip giants that
      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.
      >>
      >>Moreover, the casual laborers included among those subcontractor
      employees have scant legal protection, activists charge. And
      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:
      >Since the first nuclear power station in Japan began
      operation in 1966, nuclear plants have been maintained not only by
      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 labor
      force 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, who
      had “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 with
      hardly 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, mainly
      removing 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:
      >[He] tried very hard to form a union in order to improve
      their working contitions, because of the fact that the amount of
      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 at
      the 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 Fukushima
      No. 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” – 1980
      >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
      material on their faces but were not taken to hospital because the
      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
      other accidents.
      >
      >http://timshorrock.com/?p=1254
      >
      >ing 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
      facility.
      Those subcontractors, it turns, may be the real victims of the industry – and of the accident at Fukushima.
      Next: The “nuclear gypsies.”

      http://timshorrock.com/?p=1137

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