Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Anonymous Workers at #Fukushima I Nuke Plant Blast Government, TEPCO, Speak of Radiation Dangers at the Plant: "It's Yakuza and Rank Amateurs at the Plant"

Shukan Gendai weekly magazine online has an article featuring four workers at Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant telling the magazine that it's yakuza-and-rank-amateur hour over there.

Unlike interviews done by foreign media where the plant workers and TEPCO managers reveal their names and face no obvious repercussions, Japanese media almost always quote workers anonymously; Gendai is no exception.

There is no way of proving or disproving what they are saying, and there were in the past some extremely tall tales supposedly coming from the anonymous plant workers (particularly in the first year of the accident). But their comments in the Gendai article are still extremely revealing, and they do put things in a certain perspective (like those dead rats in the switch boxes - here and here).

Toward the end, one worker says, "At this rate, not even yakuza nor amateurs will remain at Fukushima I Nuke Plant."

Uh oh...

My quick translation (subject to later revision) from Shukan Gendai (10/22/2013; part):

(Title) 福島第一原発作業員 緊急座談会「汚染水処理の現場はヤクザとど素人だけになった」

Roundtable of workers at Fukushima I NPP "There are only yakuza and rank amateurs dealing with the contaminated water problems"

作業員B 作業員の士気、相当低いからね。とにかくコロコロ人が替わるから、責任感みたいなものがない。いま一緒に作業しとる仲間の前職は新宿の居酒屋店員、プールの監視員、塾の講師、トラック運転手と、ど素人ばかり。熟練さんがおらん。

Worker B: Morale of the workers are very low. Turnover is very high, and there is no commitment to the job. People whom I'm working with right now are a former worker at a pub in Shinjuku, a life guard at a swimming pool, a cram school teacher, a truck driver. In other words, rank amateurs. There is no skilled worker.

作業員B 現場でも東電が作業員に直接指示を出すことは、ほとんどない。あっても「早くしろ」「時間がない」くらいやね。こないだ安倍さんが視察に来たけど、ホンマ、大迷惑でした。というのも「安倍さんに汚いところを見せられない。ガレキを片付けろ!」と東電に言われ、1週間もかけて現場の掃除をやらされたんです。掃除で作業が滞るというアホらしさ。安倍さんが見たのはほんとのイチエフ(福島第一原発)の姿やないですよ(笑)。

Worker B: It is rare that TEPCO orders workers directly at the plant. When they do, it is nothing more than "Hurry up" or "We're running out of time". Mr. Abe came to the plant the other day, and that was a major headache for us. TEPCO ordered us to clean the site for one week, because "We can't let Prime Minister Abe see the dirty site. Clear the debris!" It was stupid. Because of the cleanup job, the work at the plant was delayed. What Mr. Abe saw was not the real Ichi-F [F1, Fukushima I NPP].

作業員D 汚染水タンクの配管も、どれだけ傷んでいるか想像もつかないですよね。とにかく「急げ、急げ」と急かされて作ったから、純正品ではなく、既製品を組み合わせている。

Worker D: I have no idea how damaged the pipes for the contaminated water storage tanks are. They were built in a great hurry, and they are not genuine products but off-the-shelf products.

作業員C 汚染水タンクの設置当初から水漏れは懸念されていましたけど、そうした声は東電に伝わらない。東電はタンクをパトロールしていると言ってますが、1000基あるタンクを二人で2~3時間で見るわけでしょ? 長く見積もっても1基あたり30秒弱。連結部分は数万ヵ所あるわけで、とてもチェックできない。

Worker C: From the time when the contaminated water storage tanks were first installed, people have been worried about leaks. But those worries don't reach TEPCO. TEPCO says they are patrolling the tank areas, but 1,000 tanks per two workers in 2 to 3 hours? At most, less than 30 seconds per tank. There are tens of thousands of joints, and it is impossible to check them all.

作業員B せんだって、台風が上陸したときなんて、大雨で側溝の水が溢れそうになったので、海に捨てました。流した水の放射線量を測定しなかったことを責められましたが、あえて測定せんのですよ。数値によっては犯罪になってまうから。

Worker B: The other day when a typhoon hit, heavy rain almost caused the water in the drain to overflow. So we released the water into the ocean. We were accused of not measuring the radiation before we released, but there was a reason why we didn't measure; depending on the result of the measurement it would have been a criminal act.

作業員B でも、福島第一原発には、地雷みたいに、とんでもない高線量のところがまだまだある。原子炉建屋の山側の道を車で走ると、いまもピューッと線量があがりますよ。特に2号機と3号機の間。あそこは加速して突っ切ります。3月にネズミが仮設の配電盤をかじって停電したよね? どこが停電したか、みんなわかっとったけど、線量が高いと有名なところだったから、誰も現場に行きたがらんかった。

Worker B: There are still many locations with extremely high radiation at Fukushima I Nuke Plant, like landmines. When we drive on the road on the mountain-side [west] of the reactor building, the radiation level rises rapidly. Particularly between Reactor 2 and Reactor 3. We put on the gas and drive fast there. Remember the power outage in March, caused by a rat chewing the wires in a temporary switch board? We all knew the location, which was famous [among the workers] for high radiation. No one wanted to go there.

作業員A 熟練作業員の不足は深刻。素人が10人いるより、技術を持った一人のほうが仕事は捗る。震災後、原発作業員の年間被曝量の上限が50から250ミリシーベルトに上げられたけど、福島第一原発ではそれでもすぐ、被曝限度を喰ってしまって、働けなくなる。熟練工は『高線量部隊』と呼ばれる、原発により近い現場で働くので、だいたい1~2週間で限度オーバーになってしまう。

Worker A: Lack of skilled workers is very serious. More work gets done by one skilled worker than by 10 amateurs. After the March 11, 2011 disaster, the upper limit of annual radiation exposure for nuclear plant workers was raised from 50 millisieverts to 250 millisieverts. But at Fukushima I Nuke Plant, workers reach the limit very quickly and cannot work any more. The skilled workers are called "high radiation corps". They work closer to the reactors, and they exceed the limit in one to two weeks.

作業員C 作業員には通いと泊まりがありますが、小さい下請けに入ってしまうと、16時間も拘束されることがある。長時間労働、低賃金、残業手当なしの世界。

Worker C: There are workers who commute, and there are those who stay in dorms. At a small subcontractor, the total hours spent at work may be 16 hours. Long hours, low pay, no overtime benefit.

作業員B ウチの会社はプレハブの寮に住んでいる人が多いかな。事故直後は地元の温泉街の宿やったから、ランクは相当落ちた。それにこの寮というのが、メシがまずくてね。「東電が全然、お金をかけてくれない」って食堂のオバちゃんが嘆いてた。

Worker B: At my company, many live in the prefab dorm. Right after the start of the accident, we got to stay at a local onsen [hot spring] resort. So it's been downgraded significantly. On top of that, the food at this dorm is awful. "TEPCO is not giving us any money [for better food]," says the aunty in charge of the kitchen.

作業員D ケアの面もどんどん悪くなってます。以前は線量オーバーで離職した人間は、半年か年に1回は人間ドックを受けられたり、無料の健康相談があった。それがいまはよほど高い線量で被曝したケースじゃないと、そういうケアはない。私は最近、すごく風邪をひきやすくなった。過労のせいもあるだろうけど、すごく不安です。

Worker D: The health care is progressively getting worse. Before, those who left work after exceeding the radiation exposure limit used to receive a complete medical checkup once in half year or a year. There was a free health consultation. But now, there is no such care unless your radiation exposure is significantly high. As for myself, I catch cold more often these days. It may be partly because of overwork, but I am very worried.

作業員C 使い捨てにされてる感がありますね。作業員は原発内のプレハブで休憩したり、食事をしたりするんですが、誰がどこで何の作業をしていたか、一切知らされない。僕はそんな作業員たちが着ていたものの廃棄や処分をやるんです。...一番ヒヤリとしたのは、作業中に何かが指に刺さって血が出たとき。トラブルが表沙汰になれば現場責任者も咎められるから、黙ってました。

Worker C: It feels like we are treated as disposable. Workers rest and eat inside the prefab buildings inside the plant, but we're not told who did what where. I am in charge of disposing the clothing of the workers. I was most scared when my finger bled when it caught something [in the clothing]. If I spoke up about the problem the site manager would be in trouble. So I kept quiet.

作業員B 汚染水処理にしたって、いまはそれを最優先にしているけど、肝心の汚染水を流すホースさえ、事故当時のまま使っているから、劣化が激しく、あちらこちらから水漏れする有り様。原子炉建屋もボロボロのまま。満身創痍ですわ。3号機なんていまも、原子炉の中がどうなってるかわからないですからね。放射線量が高すぎて、ロボットも入れない。

Worker B: Take contaminated water processing. It is given the high priority now, but the hoses used to transfer contaminated water have been used since the start of the accident. They have deteriorated much, and leaking. Reactor buildings remain tattered. It's like being covered with wounds all over the body. We still don't know what is like inside the reactor at Unit 3. Radiation is too high, and not even a robot can enter.

作業員A 東京オリンピック招致に際して、安倍首相が「状況はコントロールできている」と安全宣言したけど、あれはどこの話なんですかね。それどころか、ゼネコンが集めてくる作業員たちはいずれオリンピック関連工事に取られると思う。安倍は無責任すぎるよ。

Worker A: To win 2020 Olympic to Tokyo, Prime Minister Abe made a safety declaration that "situation is under control". What is he talking about? On the contrary, I think workers hired by major construction companies will eventually be diverted to construction projects related to the Olympic. Abe is too irresponsible.

作業員D もちろん、我々にもやらなくちゃいけないという思いはあるんですが、正直キツい。作業員の数は変わらないのに、仕事は増えていくばかり。トラブルが起きれば、その対応でまた仕事量が増える。キャパシティを超えて、みんな疲れきっています。「汚染水を処理する」ことばかり注目されていますが、現場の感覚からすると、放射性物質を取り除いた低濃度の汚染水を海に流せるように政治の力で話をつけてもらわないと意味がない。処理後の汚染水が貯まる一方で、いまでもタンク工場みたいになっている。

Worker D: Of course we feel we have to do it, but honestly, it is tough. More work for the same number of workers. When there's a trouble, the work increases further to respond to the trouble. It's beyond everyone's capacity, and we are dead tired. Focus has been only on "contaminated water treatment", but from our perspective at the plant, unless the government makes a political decision so that the low-contamination water after radioactive materials are removed [with the exception of tritium] can be released into the ocean, it is meaningless. Low-contamination water after the treatment keeps accumulating, and the plant looks like a storage tank factory.

作業員B あとは作業員を増やすべき。特に熟練工を福島に戻さんと。

Worker B: And the number of workers should be increased. In particular, skilled workers should be brought back to Fukushima.

作業員D 東電は、最初は威勢のいいことを言うんです。『お金がかかってもいいから、ちゃんと収束させましょう』と。ところが、実態が伴わない。これから廃炉まで30年も40年もかかるのに、作業員の詰め所はプレハブにクッションシートを敷いた簡素なもの。

Worker D: TEPCO says things like "Let's restore the plant, no mater how much it may cost," but that is not accompanied by action [money]. It will take 30, 40 years to decommission, and the workers' station is a prefab building with filler sheets on the floor.

作業員C 一部の東電の協力会社がバカみたいな安い値段で入札して、イチエフの労働価格のデフレを引き起こしたのも問題。労働者の中には借金などでヤクザに送り込まれた人や食い詰めたヤクザ本人がいる。現場はヤクザとど素人ばかりです……。

Worker C: Some of TEPCO's affiliate companies put in the bid with ridiculously low price and caused the deflation of labor cost at Fukushima I. Workers include people sent here by yakuzas for their debts and down and out yakuzas themselves. The site is full of yakuzas and rank amateurs...

作業員B 原発に潜入したジャーナリストが「作業員の1割はヤクザ」と本で書いとったけど、たしかにヤクザ者は増えた。刺青入れた作業員にも会ったことあるわ。安く人を派遣して中抜きしたり、単純にシノギとして若い衆を派遣したりしとるんやろね。一方でヤクザに頼りでもしないと、人が集まらんのも事実。

Worker B: A journalist who smuggled himself into the plant wrote in his book that "10% of workers are yakuza". I do see more yakuzas. I have met workers with tattoo. They may be sending cheap workers and skimming the wages, or sending young yakuzas simply as means to make money. On the other hand, it's a fact that they can't secure workers unless they rely on yakuza.

作業員D そもそも事故対策を考えてなかった会社に事故対応をやらせることが間違い。しかもプライドは高いから「このままでは無理です」と頭を下げることもできない。汚染水はどんどん増えるのに、作業員はどんどん減っていく。それなのに子ども・被災者支援法はあっても被曝労働者の支援法はないというんだから、そのうち素人もヤクザもイチエフからいなくなってしまいますよ。

Worker D: To begin with, it is a mistake to let a company handle the accident when that company didn't even have countermeasures in case of an accident. They are too proud to admit they can't do it under the current condition. Contaminated water keep increasing, workers keep decreasing. There is a law for supporting children and disaster victims, but there is nothing for radiation-exposed workers. Soon, not even yakuza nor amateurs will remain at Fukushima I Nuke Plant.


Worker A: man in his 30s from Kanagawa Prefecture. Volunteered to work at Fukushima I NPP right after the accident.
Worker B: man in his 40s from Osaka Prefecture. Commutes to the plant from his dorm in Iwaki City.
Worker C: man in his 20s from Tokyo. Decided to change his job after being recruited on the street.
Worker D: veteran worker from Fukushima, who have been working at the plant since before the accident


Anonymous said...

Along similar lines from Reuters


Anonymous said...

hello Arevamirpal::laprimavera,
I would like to know how you understand the more and more frequent posts about high level of contamination in Tokyo.
Sure many don't know Tokyo is also a wide east-west prefecture, and think Chiba and Tokyo are the same, yet it is a difficult case.
I've known three persons living in Kashiwa, they all died of cancer sooner than usual (sorry for the usual) but that was just before the F. crisis. My wife who is Japanese (we live in France and often stay in Japan) told me every body knows it's a roten place, very poluted. And sure a lot of industries use radioactive material, e.g. the radium bottles found in Setagaya. (I visited there for a big flea-market, there was a piece of land digged up and forbiden by the police, ten yards away from the ambulant noodle stands. Sellers in the market kept joking "don't worry, it's not radioactive.)
On the other side I'm not that worried, the home of my familly in law is in the center of Tokyo prefecture, and close to a city with a communist majority, where they say it's OK.
Thanks if you have some usefull information about this, and I whish you a good health recovery.


Anonymous said...

Everything sounds pretty much as expected.
No reason to doubt what they said, as far as I can tell.

Cleaning up for Abe reminds me of various silly US politician photo shoots.
I doubt it'd make much difference to Abe even if the site was in a shambles. He'd just make some shit up to perpetuate his delusions.

Foresight, compassion, logic, reason and intelligence are all often considered criminal activity, so that doesn't surprise me either. Society rewards dickery. Use your head -> go to jail.

You'd think that by now they'd realize they are going to run out of people to deal with the reactors before they all exceed maximum dose. There's no time to train skilled people just to use up their entire career's worth of training in one or two weeks.

Then again, they don't seem to have realized they can't just keep storing water forever, either. They obviously haven't learned their lesson. If they'd taken the proper steps to begin with, we wouldn't be in this mess.

But hey, Mister Oxford Wade Allison insists all of this is nothing to worry about, so let's just look forward to the Olympics~

Anonymous said...

There wasn't much help from those employed as Nuclear Workers.

Hélios said...

Ultraman, do you know this site and its content ? For instance, this post ?

arevamirpal::laprimavera said...

Helios, no idea. All I can tell by clicking the link is that the site is very heavy, almost crashed my PC. Two-digit followers on the twitter.

Anonymous said...

my understanding is that Kashiwa is not very clean (sort of a hot spot in itself) whereas in Tokyo you only need to be careful about very local hotspots. If I were in Kashiwa I would have moved; I am in Tokyo, kind of southwards, so I am taking the risk.

Anonymous said...

Anon at 1:28
Thank you, same kind of understanding it seems.


Anonymous said...

Anon at 1:28

Which are the hotspots in Tokyo?

Does Tokyo still have "black powder" (radioactive cyanobacteria), or "yellow powder" (as reported by some)?

- another anon

netudiant said...

One always wonders how Japan really works.
To a considerable extent the cleanup just requires unskilled labor to check hoses and shift equipment.
It makes no sense to burn the limited pool of skilled workers to do that, so the policy here of pulling in the poor and desperate seems quite coherent, sort of a modern day equivalent of the underclass that existed in earlier times for unclean activities such as leather making.
Is this a just policy or was the Soviet approach of drafting 'liquidators' to clean up Chernobyl more democratic?

Anonymous said...

Nuclear workers are paid too much to clean up their own mess,or merely too chicken,yellow.

Anonymous said...

At netudiant @ 5:35:
Whether Japan or elsewhere, it makes economic sense to use unskilled workers for tasks that require few skills and skilled workers for the others. However, as the Reuters article Beppe linked to above makes clear, the Fukushima work situation goes far beyond that. It is obviously not okay, whether skilled or unskilled workers are concerned, to disregard labor and other laws as well as contractual arrangements and thereby exploit the workers. Neither is it okay to jeopardize their safety in any way. Of course, even the best laws and regulations are meaningless if the government turns a blind eye when they are violated, as seems to be the case at Fukushima.

In addition, responsibility and accountability are watered down to the point of meaninglessness. Never a good approach in ensuring that a job is done right and certainly the wrong approach for cleaning up a nuclear accident mess.

It's a disgrace that the powers in charge can't or don't want to understand that.

arevamirpal::laprimavera said...

Netudiant, "unskilled" workers there seem to include people who don't even know how to check hoses or put on face masks.

Anonymous said...

Might as well get some chimps to do the work. No, better not, they are innocent in all of this. Man must himself lick up the nuclear diarrhea which has ensued.

netudiant said...

Seems that the process is putting the least capable into the firing line.
Of course, as is correctly pointed out, work quality, traceability and accountability, all crucial in the nuclear world, go out the window as well.
Plus of course there is the human cost of the poor slobs that wind up doing stuff they have no clue about, to their personal detriment.

It may be that the Japanese government has concluded that the situation is a non critical mess, likely to continue to slowly get better as the ALPS systems start to cut into the water backlog and as decay takes down the ambient radioactivity in the region. Beyond that, very little can be done, so muddling along at minimal financial cost becomes policy. The human cost is likewise pushed to the weakest segments of society.
I do not know if that is indeed government policy, but the reports from the site would so indicate and it would not be out of keeping with past practices. The new burakumin, the workers at Fukushima.

Anonymous said...

Still boggles my mind how people can live in a potentially dangerous location as long as they believe they are avoiding the most obvious dangerous sections.

I guess it's because the world has become a place where viable alternatives simply don't exist anymore.

Anonymous said...

Ghandi on the Nuclear Industry.
Cowardice is impotence worse than violence. The coward desires revenge but being afraid to die, he looks to others, maybe to the government of the day, to do the work of defense for him. A coward is less than a man. He does not deserve to be a member of a society of men and women.

— Mahatma Gandhi

Anonymous said...

The last reports of hotspots in Tokyo (aside from abandoned nuclear waste) that I am aware of are the usual suspects: gutters and the mud they contain. This was some time ago though.
When evaluating whether to move elsewhere you have to look at your personal situation and consider whether the burden of the move on you and your family is less than the risk of staying put and taking precautions (such as not eating too much blueberry jam :(

Anonymous said...

totally agreed, as usual. I would like to notice that the "accountability watered down to the point of meaninglessness" is a tradition of nuclear industry ever since. Japan joining the Convention on Supplementary Damage for Nuclear Damage seems will reinforce the tradition.

As to unskilled workers being unaware of the risks, in another post we have an example of the kind of training they get from their yakuza bosses: "radioactivity will halve in a week". All of this with Tepco, Obayashi, the Labour Office and everybody else looking the other way. By comparison, this kind of reports put in a better light even the likes of no-immediate-harm-to-health Edano.


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