The Economist: Fukushima engineer reveals workers “often keeled over” while clearing radioactive rubble, heat blamed — Taken away in ambulance, “usually” they returned

Published: November 8th, 2011 at 12:02 am ET


Nov. 5 — Setting the scene for its revealing report on the plight of workers at Fukushima Daiichi, the Economist details conditions outside the stricken plant. “Patrol cars stop passing vehicles,” notes the reporter, “The police are particularly vigilant in preventing unauthorised people getting near the stricken plant.”

Meet the Workers

“The air of secrecy is compounded when you try to approach workers involved in the nightmarish task of stabilising the nuclear plant. Many are not salaried Tepco staff but low-paid contract workers lodging in Iwaki, just south of the exclusion zone.”

“It is easy to spot them, in their nylon tracksuits — They seem to have been recruited from the poorest corners of society”:

  • One calls home from a pay phone because he can’t afford a mobile phone
  • Another has a single front tooth
  • Both are reluctant to talk to journalist (condition of employment is silence)
  • They share their concerns about safety
  • One said he got 30 minutes of safety training
  • He said almost everything he learned about radiation risks came from TV

Conditions On-site

Hiroyuki Watanabe, an Iwaki official reports there are “many safety breaches.” “Workers wading through contaminated water complain that their boots have holes in them — Some are not instructed in when to change the filters on their safety masks,” according to Watanabe.

“Even such basic tools as wrenches are in short supply, he claims. Tepco is shielded by a lack of media scrutiny. The councillor shows a Tepco gagging order that one local boss had to sign. Article four bans all discussion of the work with outsiders. All requests for media interviews must be rejected.”

The Engineer

“One engineer who has played a front-line role in helping cool the meltdown of Fukushima’s three reactors spoke unwittingly to The Economist.”

The engineer revealed to the Econominst the in May, “The hardest work was done by the low-level labourers. They had so much rubble to clear, he says, that they often keeled over in the heat under the weight of their protective gear. Taken out in ambulances, they would usually be back the following day.”

h/t Anonymous tip

See also:

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  • [intlink id=”just-in-japan-times-it-is-of-great-concern-that-little-has-been-disclosed-about-fukushima-workers” type=”post”]{{empty}}[/intlink]
Published: November 8th, 2011 at 12:02 am ET


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37 comments to The Economist: Fukushima engineer reveals workers “often keeled over” while clearing radioactive rubble, heat blamed — Taken away in ambulance, “usually” they returned

  • midwestern midwestern

    Japan develops powered armour suit for nuke workers:

    Tsukuba-based firm “Cyberdyne” said in a statement: “This new type of HAL robot suit supports the weight of tungsten-made protective clothing and enables their wearers to work on the site without feeling the burden,” reports AFP.

    In general, the protective suits worn at radioactive sites can stop only the weakest types of radiation. The suit isn’t worn primarily as a barrier to radiation, but rather to prevent airborne radioisotopes contaminating the wearer’s body. As Cyberdyne correctly notes, shielding heavy enough to actually stop hard radiation is generally too weighty for people to carry, so the usual method of dealing with such radiation levels is simply to withdraw from such an area or enter it only briefly, so as to stay below safe dosage levels.

    Now, however, Cyberdyne is offering its “Hybrid Assistive Limb” (HAL) powered suit for use in carrying the heavy tungsten plates that could offer a useful barrier even in high-radiation situations. We’ve previously reported on the HAL suit and its colourful inventor, Prof Yoshiyuki Sankai of the University of Tsukuba “Cybernics” lab.

    • midwestern midwestern

      from article:
      “The AFP reports that as yet there has been no commitment by any of the agencies at work at the Fukushima site to deploy the armoured HAL: perhaps unsurprisingly as the policy of simply keeping workers out of highly radioactive areas has worked well to date, with nobody so far reported as suffering any significant radiological health consequences as a result of the damage to the plant.”

      The key words here–“policy of keeping workers out of highly radioactive areas”? and “nobody so far reported as suffering…”

      Right, take the suits, Tepco.

    • staycalm

      There really is a Cyberdyne now? Cyberdyne systems?

      There’s a storm coming…

  • Mack Mack

    “June 2011: Fukushima Workers found with internal radiation in thyroids over 7,500 bq”

    —>”2 workers are men. One is in his 30s and the other in his 40s. Both worked at the control rooms of the Number 3 and 4 reactors, and elsewhere, after the accident broke out at the plant.”

    —>”TEPCO said a test conducted at an institute last Monday found 9,760 becquerels and 7,690 becquerels of radioactive iodine-131 in the workers’ thyroids. This means they are likely suffering from internal radiation exposure after inhaling radioactive substances.”

    —>”The 2 contaminated workers have been exposed to external radiation of 74 and 89 millisieverts so far.”

  • Anthony Anthony

    I’m saddened by this.

  • Dr. McCoy

    *Just In* Workers “often died” while handling radioactive materials.

    And still no one cared…

  • Novamind

    One can expect deaths while working around these levels of Radiation. This should not surprise anyone. Tepco trying to cover these deaths up should not surprise anyone either.

  • Grampybone Grampybone

    Oh guys get a load of this pewp spewing from the financial times. This retarded journalist actually believes nothing is wrong and has bi-passed putting his head in the sand opting to stick it right up his rump. Here’s the link.

    I got pretty pissed off when I saw just how stupid this “journalists” remarks were. His family’s going to get blurped with a dose of propagandist-off aka Rad-dose extreme. After 2 years Rad-dose extreme may cause, death, massive organ failure, colon falling out of behind, bone marrow cancer, thyroid mutation and tumors. Keep eating that rice…One less pro-nuke windowlicker to listen to.

    • Thanks for getting that article. I couldn’t get all of it for some odd reason, first time I looked.

      The little I read made me gasp in disbelief.

      But science and medical theory do indeed suggest Tokyo’s radiation levels are not something to worry too much about.


    • truthseek truthseek

      A viable journalist should do a little bit of research before committing thoughts to any keyboard…


      I almost feel sorry for how he’s going to feel after he finds out that he, for intents and purposes, has poisoned his own children and himself. Not to mention encouraging others to act in the same ignorant fashion. I know how I feel about not protecting my kids from the rain all summer and I’m in VA.

  • Bleifrei Bleifrei

    Why not a journalist examines the first of the remaining 50?
    enough pictures as they travel from Tokyo and elsewhere. days of the first
    where are they? how are they? they still live?
    that’s the one small one of journalism
    but this must be possible to investigate.
    Other tracks have to follow to ratify and

  • Whoopie Whoopie

    This story is horrific. My heart goes out to these workers and my ANGER grows for Tepco and the Gov everyday. Damn them!!
    HP has a new thread about a 6.8 EQ-must have happened after I got offline:

  • Whoopie Whoopie

    Radiating Americans: Fukushima rain, Clinton’s secret food pact

  • dosdos dosdos

    27% of residents of evacuated areas do not want to return.

    Tokyo city government to test food in markets on limited basis.

    • Whoopie Whoopie

      27%? IF that number is even RIGHT. Bet it’s much higher.

      • Clocka

        No. The only people who chose to leave Hiroshima and Nagasaki after the Bomb were Koreans, who had no ties to there.

        In fact if someone left the person was often suspected as Koreans by the natives.

        Even now, Japanese are attached their home towns and their native regions, especially among the older generation which constitute the majority of the residents in the affected regions.

  • Whoopie Whoopie

    11/08 Nuclear industry worried it might not get loan guarantees
    I bet so. We MUST keep the pressure up and ON them! NO MORE NUKES!

    • Whoopie Whoopie

      Meanwhile, the shuttered Hanford Nuclear Reservation in Washington is running up taxpayer bills for cleaning up highly radioactive materials left behind after the plant’s closure. This week the Hanford Advisory Board advised the Department of Energy that it believes $115 billion may not be enough to finish the environmental cleanup work there by 2060.

      • Au Au

        How about they take all of the gazillions of dollars they are POURING into chemtrail jumbo jets, that are painting the sky from coast to coast to spray us with toxic shit, at tax payer expense, and put it that into the monitoring, testing and clean up of radioactivity. #%&$^@

        • Whoopie Whoopie

          Oh I know. I see it everyday in the summer. Chemtrails everywhere. Once I was alerted to them, I started paying attention on anything on TV, news casts (reporting something else) and you see them in the sky. On News Programs!! I often wonder why in the hell more weathermen don’t come out and talk about it. THEY SEE IT. They KNOW.
          BTW I just posted this on the other thread in case you missed it. I dont think I’ve ever seen this PLACE:
          The Radiation Database

          • Whoopie Whoopie

            Audio track is “What’s the Use?” by Phish, off their “Sicket Disc” an ambient jam album.

          • Au Au

            Whoopie, I KNOW! we get it allllllllllllll winter long too. 6-7 planes in the air going night and day sometimes. I feel very furious about it. Do you know how much it cost to fuel up one of those babies? Who is making $ off of the aluminum? Barium? Strontium? Who are f#cks behind this? Because they need to effing stop it! People tell me to cool out about it! I just look at them like, “Are you stupid???? It is poisoning everything all the way down to the micro-flora!” Meanwhile, they can’t find 2$ for some damn monitoring equipment. How about take some of that money from the govt “troll squad” and actually do something for the people? How about make road repairs and give some people some jobs? How about testing baby formula for radioactivity?

            • Whoopie Whoopie

              I KNOW AU!!! You are NOT ALONE!
              They are purposely dong this. Think about HOW DEEP this goes! MONEY TO BE MADE! The LIST is endless! Esp the DRUG INDUSTRY. Blow MY ever loving mind. 7 Billion people
              so the Elite HAS to do something.
              YOU GUESSED IT! KILL US OFF!

              • Au Au

                “It’s complicated” I am sure someone will say, but mass genocide is the only thing that makes sense. I agree with you that the weather men know and they have to bend their forcasts to fit the day’s amazing new storm out of nowhere.

                How clever the Wizards of Oz are. If one wants to go protest outside “they” probably encourage it! That way it insures that one is breathing in the chemtrail cocktail AND the radioactivity. And hey! For good measure, it is really super that high powered cell phones are deemed safe to radiate billions of brains at close range. Toy cell phones for kids to prime them for the real thing. Chemtrails in cartoon backgrounds, advertising and on Fox News backdrops. Baaaa Baaaa I want to go graze on some Heart Smart Cherrios cuz they are so good for me.

  • Whoopie Whoopie

    Be sure to turn on CC!

  • Heart of the Rose Heart of the Rose

    So what do they do?..take them away ..hydrate them…and toss them back in..until the final ambulance trip?

    • Au Au

      I am guessing maybe they run some IV glutathione. If they keep anything down, have them drink some zeolite, baking soda, boron mix. I’m sure Chernobyl has some recipes in their cookbooks. They could snake a tube into their intestine and bypass the stomach all together if there is nausea. Maybe they do some short term pharmaceutical symptom bandaid for what ever blood clotting disorder is showing up. Oxygen. I don’t know. I am just guessing.

      This is all so sad. Families everywhere, in sorrow, fear and worry and there is no end in sight and there is no limit to this spread.

      • Whoopie Whoopie

        48 hours to save Fukushima’s children

        • arclight arclight

          “As concerned citizens, we urge you to take immediate action to support Fukushima City’s children still trapped in highly contaminated areas. Specifically, we call on you to recognize the right of local Watari residents to resettle and to provide urgent assistance to those who want to relocate to safer areas. The future of our children and grandchildren is at stake — there is no time to lose.”

          worth signing!!

          did you catch this video?

          the japanese ambasador cried with the pettioners !! really powerful citizen stuff!!wow! 2nd half is brilliant!
          group involved is linked of you tube!! enjoy!