By John Chan:
Untrained labourers working in Japan’s nuclear industry
14 April 2011
For decades, Japan’s nuclear power industry has claimed to be among the safest in the world, and presented itself as an icon of the technological prowess of Japanese capitalism. The radiation crisis at the Fukushima Daiichi plant since the March 11 earthquake and tsunami, has exposed not only inadequate safety procedures, but the industry’s exploitation of untrained and low-paid casual labourers.
Nuclear plants in Japan hire thousands of temporary and contract workers to undertake the most dangerous and physically demanding duties. In order to avoid exceeding official radiation levels, these labourers must rotate frequently as they perform tasks such as cleaning off radiation from reactor drywells and spent fuel pools with mops and rags, or filling drums with contaminated waste.
Citing statistics from the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency (NISA), the official government regulator, the New York Times reported on April 9 that contract workers made up 88 percent of the 83,000 workers at Japan’s 18 commercial nuclear power plants. At the Fukushima plant, owned by the Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO), 89 percent of the 10,303 workers were contractors, subcontractors and sub-subcontractors, whose wages and conditions were generally far worse than those of TEPCO’s regular employees.
Construction site workers, local farmers who desperately needed extra income, and unemployed workers formed the bulk of the workforce.
Anne Roy, l’Humanité: “Specialist on Japan, the sociologist Paul Jobin has studied workplace conditions for workers in the nuclear industry. He offers us his analysis at a moment when those workers are attempting to get a hold on the situation at the Japanese power plant heavily damaged by the earthquake… We read that they are sleeping on the hard soil, that they have only two meals per day, and are rationed in drinking water. The Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) and its subcontractors allow little information to filter out concerning workers fighting on the front lines at the Fukushima power plant”: here.
Japan’s Communists repeatedly warned of nuclear power risks: here.
Quake disaster shakes Japanese economy: here.
Suvendrini Kakuchi, Inter Press Service: “The story of Sakura is just one example of the thousands of tales of similar distress now told by survivors of the magnitude 9.0 earthquake and massive tsunami that devastated the northern coastline of Japan. Gender specialists also hasten to add that the worst effects have been on women, children and the elderly – some of them still living in evacuation centres. They represent vulnerable groups at the worst risk during disasters, and therefore need help as quickly possible”: here.
Japan’s sexist labour market: here.
Dr. Brian Moench, Truthout: “In the 1940s, many of the world’s premier nuclear scientists saw mounting evidence that there was no safe level of exposure to nuclear radiation. This led Robert Oppenheimer, the father of the atom bomb, to oppose development of the hydrogen bomb. In the 1950s, Linus Pauling, the only two-time winner of the Nobel Prize, began warning the public about exposure to all radiation. His opinion, ultimately shared by thousands of scientists worldwide, led President Kennedy to sign the nuclear test-ban treaty”: here.
Karl Grossman, Truthout: “As a candidate for president, Obama knew about the deadly dangers of nuclear power. ‘I start off with the premise that nuclear energy is not optimal and so I am not a nuclear energy proponent,’ Obama said at a campaign stop in Newton, Iowa, on December 30, 2007. ‘My general view is that until we can make certain that nuclear power plants are safe … I don’t think that’s the best option. I am much more interested in solar and wind and bio-diesel and strategies [for] alternative fuels.’ However, as president, he hired a nuclear power proponent out of the national nuclear laboratory system, Steven Chu, as his energy secretary”: here.
For Young Environmental Activists, Obama Now the One to Pressure. Peter Nicholas, Tribune Washington Bureau: “Not so long ago Barack Obama and his campaign team might have masterminded the kind of conference that is unfolding in downtown Washington, D.C. Thousands of college students and idealistic young voters came in this weekend to learn organizing techniques aimed at pushing the country toward renewable energy. But in a measure of how much has changed since the ‘Yes We Can’ spirit of Obama 2008, many in attendance now see him as something of an obstacle”: here.