Title: REMEMBERING 3/11: Fukushima workers brave radiation for 1,000 yen an hour
Source: AJW by The Asahi Shimbun
Author: SOPHIE KNIGHT
Date: March 10, 2012
[...] the world’s eyes turned briefly on the “Fukushima 50,” [...] Little has been heard from those men—who actually numbered more than fifty—or those that took their places in the following months. Most have been reluctant to speak to the media for fear of losing their jobs.
Three workers, however, did agree to speak to The Asahi Shimbun AJW after being introduced by Masayoshi Hisada, the author of a recently published book about their experiences, “Young Nuclear Outlaws.”
All grew up close to the Fukushima plant and started working there in their late teens or early 20s. [...]
X-rays, Rocks, Air Travel, Cartoons… Sound Familiar?
All three say that they have become desensitized to the risks of radiation exposure after years of work in the nuclear industry. The training they received from TEPCO played down the risks with cartoons of doses received from flights, x-rays and rocks and made no mention of the 1986 Chernobyl disaster in the former Soviet Union.
“After working in this job for 10 years you become anesthetized to words like ‘exposure,’ or ‘contamination’,” said Kenichi
5,000 CPM Internally
[Kenichi's] internal radiation exposure has been measured at 5,000 counts per minute, or around five times the upper range for an average person. “I sometimes think maybe I shouldn’t get married and I won’t be able to have kids.”
Daily Dose of 18+ millisieverts through Fall
Kenichi says he was receiving around 18 to 20 millisieverts a day in the fall, according to his dosimeter. That has now fallen to around 0.08 millisievert.
Many fainted from heatstroke, but Kenichi notes that if they had to go home they would not be paid. Those who blamed the plant’s operators for their symptoms were told not to come back the next day.
Having worked in the industry for over 10 years, Kenichi and Tatsuo were much more aware of what was happening at the plant than the general public, who were reliant on information released by TEPCO and the government.
Kenichi predicted that the reactors would melt down in strict number order, from the No. 1 reactor upward, as the cooling system runs from the first to the sixth reactor. Hisada, the former editor of Jitsuwa Knuckles, a monthly magazine focusing on Japan’s seamy underbelly, heard the same prediction from a worker he knew on March 12.
“Information travels fast in these circles,” Hisada says. “The workers knew because they’ve been working in the same place for so long.”
None of them trust anything TEPCO or the government says.
Nuclear, the Attractive Alternative
The workers see themselves more as “outlaws,” as Hisada calls them, than heroes; estranged from society since a young age, when they started causing trouble and were involved in crime, they say work in the nuclear industry was an attractive alternative.
Read the report here
Published: March 12th, 2012 at 3:33 am ET