Friday, January 11, 2013

#Fukushima City Housewife: "Fukushima 50" No Hero, Because They Work for TEPCO

Ms. Seiko Takahashi responds to BBC's Rupert Wingfield-Hayes (1/3/2013) when he asks about "Fukushima 50", workers who remained at Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant after Reactor 3 building exploded and kept on doing whatever they could to contain the situation:

Before the meltdowns, Seiko Takahashi never thought of activism. Now the middle-aged mother from Fukushima City is a passionate anti-nuclear campaigner. And she admits there is little sympathy for the Fukushima workers.

"They are not heroes for us," she says. "I feel sorry for them, but I don't see them as heroes. We see them as one block, they work for Tepco, they earned high salaries. The company made a lot of money from nuclear power, and that's what paid for their nice lives."

She is essentially saying they get what they deserve, for having worked for TEPCO.

Her city, Fukushima City, is in the highly contaminated middle-third of Fukushima Prefecture. While most Japanese (and foreigners) may sympathize with her and her city's plight, many of them are also angry that the city, along with almost all municipalities in that prefecture, continues to grow crops and sell them outside, claiming they are "safe" (i.e. less than 100 Bq/kg of radioactive cesium), and claims it suffers tremendously from "baseless rumors".

For how some of the Fukushima I Nuke Plant workers have been treated by their fellow Fukushima residents, see my post from February 2012. That post was about an article that appeared in Germany's Der Spiegel. I have seen hardly any coverage on the issue in the Japanese media.

As BBC's Wingfield-Hayes says at the end of his report,

There is wide sympathy here for victims like him, [Mr. Yoshizawa the cattle farmer in Namie-machi] but the Japanese public appears to have little sympathy or concern for the suffering of Fukushima workers.

That's Japan for you.

(H/T anon reader)


Anonymous said...

>She is essentially saying they get what they deserve, for having worked for TEPCO.

Under that logic Ms. Takahashi bares some responsibility herself, she looked no further than TEPCO's guarantees of safety and I'm sure she was happy about the money TEPCO lavished on the local economy. Before the accident she would probably be one of the first people to attack protesters as troublemakers. Major industries don't supply things like infrastructure improvement or free sport complexes because they are nice, they do it to insure their bottomline. How many other styles of power plant hand out lavish perks for permission to operate?

Anonymous said...

I'm not sure Ms. Takahashi's words necessarily have to be interpreted as "they get what they deserve." I too am not entirely on board with the hero-talk, but I do not believe the workers got what they deserved.

The workers did what they signed up for and were paid to do, i.e., operate the plant and take whatever steps necessary in an emergency situation. It was their job! They had to do it under horrid conditions (in fear for their loved ones affected by the earthquake or tsunami and with utter lack of support from TEPCO or the Japanese government for even basic supplies), and they are to be commended for their strength, courage, and persistence. I certainly am grateful that they did not give in to the most human of temptations to abandon the plant and run for cover, so to speak. They should be recognized for the extraordinary effort it took for them to do what they did, but the bottom line remains this: it was their job!

Atomfritz said...

I won't be so hard with the Fukushima workers.

Look, they aren't at all cowards.

There have been really worse staff responses to accidents.

For example, a short description what happened in a WWER reactor of the Armenian Metsamor nuclear plant in 1982:

"One reactor developed a bubble of hydrogen which led to a big fire in the machine room causing most of the [Armenian] staff to leave in panic.

The situation was brought under control only an emergency team was flown in from the Kola nuclear power plant in Russia. The team managed to prevent an explosion. Even after its closure there were several pre-accident situations at the plant when power was cut off to the ventilation systems cooling spent fuel."

(source: )

And, the maintenance in the Armenian plant was definitely of a lesser quality than in Fukushima.
Former workers are heavily suffering from contamination, including Cobalt-60:

(Source: )

I think there is no need to derogate these workers.
They ruin their health in plastic wrapping that doesn't protect them against the gamma sunbath at their work.
Which they are paid $1600 per month only.
Until they get replaced like an item that has reached its specified wear.

Actually, these are some poor Banzai guys cannonfoddered against the nuclear monster.

Anonymous said...

As a French, with so much of our eletricity comming from NPP, I could say a few words.
First N energy business is a Monster, deeply tied with the N weapons business - a very secretive one, as you may understand.
Second it has a long history of lies, about it's cost (enjoy now and pay later) it's safety (deny any problem) and maintenance (hire cheap people and fire them when they've got their dose).
Note that worker's unions went hand to hand with that policy (EDF's CCAS was known for secretly funding the Communist Party).
And French people were repetedly teached to be happy with a clean and cheap energy, three lies here : it is clean untill the major accident happens, it is not clean for the workers, and it is cheap as long as you do not write the contamination costs in the books.
A state inside the state.
And it's not pretty. Our own past tells it.

Anonymous said...

I am not sure what is the contract for nuclear workers -- whether they [all] have duties similar to ship captains, aircraft pilots or soldiers.
Regular Japanese workers have 30 days notice and if one has 20 days of paid vacation available his notice is effectively zero days.
I am inclined towards been grateful to those who did not flee the plant -- more grateful to them than to those growers that put on the market cesium tainted food, albeit legally.

Anonymous said...

I think the F50 probably have been overly glorified in the Western media because it makes a good story, maintains the JP stereotype ("kamikaze" alive and well etc.) and gets eyeballs.

I don't think the workers deserve to be discredited as they went beyond their original call of duty. On the other hand I also understand angry affected residents who do not care about this. Guilty by association is the keyword here. If someone credits the workers (and implicitly their employer) with a positive reaction, it will take away from the activist angle.

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