Sunday, May 5, 2013

Tokyo Shinbun: Worker Who Tweeted from #Fukushima I Nuke Plant, and His Two Years of Being Jerked Around by TEPCO and Government


The worker who tweeted for two years from Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant is no longer there, but he was recently interviewed by Tokyo Shinbun. He shared his first-hand knowledge of how it was like to work at a nuclear plant that went spectacularly bust, under the conflicting and useless direction from both TEPCO Headquarters in Tokyo and the national government under then-Prime Minister Naoto Kan.

People on Japanese Twitter, blogs, and message boards have been accusing the worker whose Twitter name is "Happy" as TEPCO agent of disinformation. I've been following him and reading his tweets, but I don't get that feeling. As far as I know, he is a worker at either one of the first-tier subcontractors or one of the major local subcontractors of a first-tier subcontractor.

In the interview with Tokyo Shinbun, "Happy" describes what was effectively "TEPCO that couldn't say no".

"Prime Minister says 'Work 24 hours a day', so do something!"


Instead of shielding the workers at the plant from the ignorant politicians and bureaucrats so that they could do the job, TEPCO headquarters was nothing more than a messenger boy.

Then the national government under the Democratic Party of Japan interfered with the work for their convenience, and it was not just Naoto Kan. "Happy" says the probe of Reactor 2's Containment Vessel was originally scheduled in December 2011, but since then-Prime Minister Noda needed to declare "cold shutdown state" (to the snicker and ridicule around the world except at IAEA and NRC) and he didn't want to have a potentially dangerous work during that month, the DPJ government told TEPCO to delay the work until after the New Year.

From Tokyo Shinbun, as archived at Asyura (5/5/2013; as article links don't last long at Tokyo Shinbun):

つぶやく福島作業員 政府・東電に振り回された2年間 (東京新聞)

Worker Who Tweeted from Fukushima I Nuke Plant, and His Two Years of Being Jerked Around by TEPCO and Government

東京電力福島第一原発事故の発生当初から収束作業に従事し、現場の様子をツイッターでつぶやき続け、その内容を七万超の人が注目している「ハッピー」さん。福島第一の近くに家があり、作業員としてここで長年働いてきた。このほど本紙の取材に応じ、二年間を超える収束作業で感じた疑問などを語った。 (片山夏子)

He worked at Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant since the beginning of the nuclear accident and tweeted the situation. His tweets as "Happy" are followed by more than 70,000 people. His home is near the plant, and has worked at the plant for many years. We interviewed him recently, and he told us what he thought during the past two years of his effort to control the situation.

◆まるで戦場

It's like a war zone.

 二〇一一年三月十四日昼、3号機原子炉建屋で水素爆発が起きた時、ハッピーさんは近くで作業をしていた。突き上げる衝撃、すさまじい爆音に襲われ、がれきがバラバラ降ってきた。

When the hydrogen explosion happened in the Reactor 3 building on March 14, 2011, "Happy" was working nearby. The ground shook with deafening explosion, and debris rained on him.

 「ここで死ぬかもしれない」

"I may die here."

 まるで戦場だった。建屋から煙が上がり、すすで全身が真っ黒になった人、防護服が血に染まった人もいた。怒号が飛び交う様子はとても現実とは思えなかった。

It was like a war zone. Smoke rose from the reactor building, and there were people who were coated with black soot, and whose protection gear was bloody. People were shouting. It didn't seem real.

 ハッピーさんがツイッターを始めたのは水素爆発から六日後の二十日のこと。

"Happy" started to tweet on March 20, six days after that hydrogen explosion.

 理由は二つあった。一つは情報が錯綜(さくそう)し、不安をあおる報道もあったこと。もう一つは、福島県南相馬市に小さな子どもと住む知人に、現場で起きていることを冷静に伝え「必要以上に心配することはないよ」と伝えるためだったという。

There were two reasons. First, communication was garbled and confused [in the early days of the accident] and there were media reports that fanned fear. Second, he wanted to tell his acquaintance who lived in Minamisoma City in Fukushima with small child[ren] that "there is no need to worry too much", by calmly describing what was happening at the plant.

 つぶやきの中で自分のことを「オイラ」と書き、「です」ではなく「でし」で結ぶことが多い独特のメッセージ。初めのころ、読み手は子どもがいるお母さんが多かった。「助けられました」「救われました」というお礼や温かい言葉が寄せられた。

His tweets are unique. He calls himself "oira", writes "deshi" instead of "desu" [in closing a sentence]. In the beginning, many of his readers were mothers with children, who replied to him saying "You helped me", "You saved me".

◆命は二の次

Life is on the back burner

 ハッピーさんのつぶやきには現場で感じる政府や東電への率直な疑問が多い。

Many of "Happy"'s tweets include frank doubts he felt as he worked at the plant, toward the government and TEPCO.

 政府や東電が、根拠のない楽観的な見通しを示したり、きちんと説明しない発表をするたびにいらついた。事実をありのまま伝えないことで、かえって不安をあおっていると感じたという。

He was irritated each time the national government and TEPCO showed optimistic prospect without basis, or made presentations without full explanation. He says he felt not telling the facts was fanning the fear.

 事故発生当初、作業工程の調整がなされないまま、現場に指示が飛んだことにも閉口させられた。電気系と配管系の作業が同じ場所で同じ時間にぶつかり、片方の作業ができなくなるなどの混乱が起きた。

He was also annoyed at the instructions without coordinating the work processes, which caused confusion in the early days of the accident. [At one time] electrical work and pipe work were scheduled on the same location at the same time, and one of the work couldn't be done.

 混乱の跡は、二年たった今も福島第一の各所に残る。ほぼ同じ場所に汚染水の移送ホース、電源ケーブルや機器を制御するケーブルが乱雑に設置されている点などがそうだ。緊急作業だったとはいえ、誤作動や漏電の恐れがあり、今後の不安要因になっている。

The result of the confusion is still visible in many places at Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant even after two years. Hoses to transfer contaminated water, power cable and control cables for equipments are installed in a messy way in the same location, for example. Even if it was an emergency, there is a possibility of malfunctioning and short circuit.

 「総理が二十四時間作業しろと言っているから何とかしろ」。こんな指示が現場に飛んだこともあった。無理やり二十四時間体制のシフトを組んだが、作業効率が落ちた。

"Prime Minister says 'Work 24 hours a day', so do something!" was one of the instructions to the plant. So they set up 24-hour shifts, but work efficiency suffered.

 現場の状況も考えず毎月発表された工程表にも悩まされた。「政府がやるって発表しちゃったから作業を急いでくれ」と言われ、準備もできていないのに夜中に駆り出されたこともあったという。

He was bothered by the time schedule of work published every month without considering the situation at the plant. At one time, he was told to hurry up the work because the national government had already publicly announced it, and he was called to the site in the middle of the night even though no preparation had been made.

 特に、防護服を着ての夏の作業では何度も倒れそうになった。「休め」とは言われるが、工程表はそのまま。作業員の命や安全は、二の次になっていると感じた。

He almost fainted a number of times during the summer with full protective gear. He was told to "rest", but the time schedule for work remained the same. He felt that life and safety of the workers were put on the back burner.

◆コスト優先

Cost comes first

 一一年九月、ハッピーさんの耳に、政府と東電が「冷温停止」に「状態」をくっつけて新語をつくり、年内にも福島第一が「冷温停止状態」になったと宣言する、との情報が入ってきた。

In September 2011, a piece of information reached "Happy" that the national government and TEPCO [HQ] were going to create a new word by combining "cold shutdown" and "state" and declare within the year that Fukushima I Nuke Plant achieved "cold shutdown state".

 だが、溶け落ちた核燃料の状態もわからない。原子炉の冷却にしても、ポンプ故障だけでなく、配管の詰まりや破損などで止まる可能性がある。原子炉の温度計が不安定な動きをし始める中で、炉内が一〇〇度以下と言えるのかどうか…。「冷温停止なんてあり得ない」と思った。

But they didn't know the condition of the melted fuel. Reactor cooling could stop, not just because of the pump failures but also because of clogged or broken pipes. Thermometers attached to the reactors had started to behave erratically. How could anyone say the temperature inside the reactors is below 100 degrees Celsius? "Happy" thought, "Cold shutdown cannot be happening."

 さらに十一月ごろには、「事故収束」まで宣言するらしい、との情報が入ってきた。

Then in November, he heard that they were going to declare, in addition, "end of the accident" [restoration of the plant to the normal state].

 「まさか」と思ったが、十二月に実施する予定だった2号機の格納容器の穴開け作業が年明けに延びるなど、宣言の妨げになるかもしれない危険な作業は延期され始めた。

"That cannot be", he thought, but the work to drill a hole in the Reactor 2 Containment Vessel, which had been scheduled in December, was delayed until after the New Year. Other dangerous works that could mar the declaration started to get postponed.

 これまでも「選挙があるから、それまで危険な作業はするな」「担当大臣が明後日、海外に行くから今日中にやれ」と現場で指示されるなど、政治の動きに振り回されてきたが、まただった。

The work at the plant had been at the mercy of the politicians before. "There is an election coming, so don't do dangerous work until after the election." "Minister in charge will go on an overseas trip the day after tomorrow, so finish the work within today."

 収束宣言後、事故現場では、コスト優先の契約が目立つようになり、危険手当や給与の削減など作業員の雇用条件が悪化した。事故後に福島第一に導入された設備類は、保守管理のことを十分考慮していない仮設のものが多い。耐久性のあるものに交換すべきだと東電に提案しても、「予算がない」と却下されることも増えた。

After the declaration of end of the accident, there were more work contracts whose priority was to cut costs, and employment condition for the workers deteriorated with the cut in hazard bonus and pay. Many of the pieces of equipment that were installed at Fukushima I Nuke Plant after the accident were temporary, without ample consideration for maintenance. When he [his company] suggested to TEPCO that they should be replaced with durable [permanent] ones, the suggestion was often turned down by TEPCO, who said "There is no budget".

 ハッピーさんは、東電が会社再建を急ぎながら、事故収束も進めることに大きな疑問を感じている。コスト優先では、経験豊かな作業員も雇用が安定しないため集まらず、廃炉作業も進まない、と危機感を抱いている。

"Happy" doubts if TEPCO could rebuild itself and end the accident at the same time. With cost cutting as a priority, experienced workers won't come to work at the plant because their employment is not stable, and the decommissioning work won't make progress, he fears.

 「国がいくら税金を投入しても、東電の借金になるだけ。東電が民間企業である以上、コストを優先するのは当然。これでは廃炉は遅々として進まない。世界を揺るがした原発事故なのだから、国と東電は収束作業を専門に担う組織をつくって強力に進めるべきだ」

"No matter how much taxpayers' money the national government pours in, it simply becomes TEPCO's debt. Since TEPCO remains as a private company, it naturally puts cost-cutting as priority. As such, decommissioning won't make much progress. It is the nuclear accident that has shaken the entire world, and the government and TEPCO should create a new organization that focus only on ending the accident and move aggressively."


(First-pass quick translation, subject to change later.)

The nuclear accident that has shaken the world seems to have been forgotten by most people in the world, particularly those in emerging nations like Vietnam and Turkey, who want Japanese-made nuclear reactors and plants in their respective country, probably because of Fukushima. They think Japan has learned a lot from the accident (which in their mind is probably long over) and the knowledge and the expertise from the accident will be highly beneficial for their countries' push for nuclear energy.

And so it goes, until next time.

10 comments:

Hélios said...

Very interesting. I translate. Thank you for your own translation.

netudiant said...

A classic.
What seems clear is that no one commands confidence, either at TEPCO or at the government. Everybody in the hierarchies is caught in a permanent PR mode, putting lipstick on the pig. The only people who can tell it like it is are the people who work there, but most of them don't dare, because they need the job and the money.
There is no solution that I can see, because even if the government took direct control of the site, they would still be reliant on the same contractors. Hanford in the US proves that approach ensures the site will be perpetually on the brink of disaster, because that keep the maximum money flowing to the contractors.

netudiant said...

The solution would be to have someone get an Imperial mandate to fix the problem.
That would clear the lines of authority even in Japan, at least I hope, as well as clarify the human and social costs of this disaster.
The Emperor seems to be one of the few who really gets it that this is an ongoing cancer on the body politic, but whether he can break out of his gilded cage to save the country is an open question.

Anonymous said...

Since his children and grandchildren are exposed, would think its a priority. Any word on the health (asthma ??) of the young princess? Or others in the family? Guess we will see 'mental or stress' appied to any issues the Japanese government wants hidden.

Hélios said...

Arnie Gundersen, march 11, 2013 :

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F0r9OmCIrUA&feature=share&list=UU-J6bDRfeGYfexcoaP4LeWQ

US responsible for the disaster, too.
Very good analysis from Arnie.

J said...

What happened to Happy? Why did he leave Fukushima plant? was he in ill health? Or was he fired? The original Tokyo Shinbun article doesn't say he doesn't work there any longer - but I'm not following his Twitter account very carefully so you must have seen him say something about leaving. Please let us know if you find out what happened to him with TEPCO.

And thanks always for your amazing work - working with two languages and carefully sieving through information. I don't agree with all of your political opinions (like your support for EPA-bashing, let-nuclear-industry-reign-itself-with-no-regulation-whatsoever Ron Paul earlier in 2012 - ok let's not get into that) but aside from that, I feel you are doing such a fantastic job informing all of us and I cannot say enough about how much I appreciate you. Please keep it up! Take good care, kenko ni ki o tsukete, kore kara mo ganbatte kudasai.

Vyse Legendaire said...

So Happy confirms all of our suspicions up until now. We really are toast if Tepco is not somehow removed from this job, and the government not allowed to lord over whoever is in charge.

arevamirpal::laprimavera said...

Happy said he was leaving the plant at the end of March. He didn't elaborate on the reason. No indication he was fired, or ill health. He says he's not working right now. He seems to be in good spirits now as he was at the plant.

It could be the "100 millisieverts in 5 years" limit for radiation workers. Even as TEPCO kept 250 millisieverts/5 years special limit for their employees, many subcontractor balked, I heard, and they kept the old standard (which is now the standard again) of 100 mill/5 year for their workers.

It sure looks the workers like him who have worked at nuclear power plants, particularly at Fuku I, since before the accident are the ones with an "end-state" vision...

citizenperth said...

Nice work... ty...... continue on...

citizenperth said...

I too saw from the outset against this Crisis.. indeed.. I saw the live footage swallow traffic... I have followed #happy with the same err of caution, and I watched as you changed your page from Financial advice to following the crisis... Kudos to you Sir....

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