By Paul Jobin
On June 27, TEPCO presented another version of its roadmap for the years to come.7 As TEPCO still refuses to provide the names of its “partners” and subcontractors, it is difficult to get a clear picture of who is doing what, and possible outcomes of their work. But the data presented give an idea of the tremendous tasks that remain to be addressed.
From July 2012 to April 2013, the total number of people who entered the site increased from around 24,000 to 27,000. As levels of radiation remain high on the site (see the radiation mapping on the aerial photo), it is not surprising that more than 5,000 people have been exposed to a dose exceeding 20 mSv. Even if the rate of increase in those exposed to that level of radiation has decelerated, compared to the situation before 3.11, the numbers are striking: from 2003 to 2009, only 21 workers employed in all Japanese nuclear plants had been exposed to an annual dose above 20 mSV a year.12 This simple comparison helps to convey an idea of the drastic working conditions at Fukushima Daiichi, despite repeated declarations made by TEPCO and the government proclaiming the site safe and stable as a means to assure future restarts of other plants. Another important point to keep in mind is the use of 20 mSv a year as a practical marker for the management of external radiation.13 By comparison there have been repeated declarations by the ministry of Health and Labor and local authorities in Fukushima prefecture that there is no epidemiological proof of a significant increase of cancer mortality under 100 mSv. Furthermore, TEPCO roadmaps are limited to external radiation and present no data on internal radiation, which can cause much greater damage to health.
The labor organization of decontamination work shares many similarities with the yoseba. The most obvious characteristic is that the medium age of the workers is around 50 and there is almost no female labor. Then come the less visible parts of the organization of labor:
Public bids are now almost entirely controlled by the construction companies at the top (moto uke) and the yakuza at the bottom;
Though the Ministry of the Environment only authorizes two levels of subcontracting, in practice, the levels of subcontracting are even more numerous than at F1 and other nuclear plants. Between his own employer and Shimizu Construction, the moto uke, Masato has counted 24 levels;
Wage skimming is the norm and many workers only get a tiny portion—if any—of the 10,000 Yen hazard allowance;
The majority of workers receive no health insurance benefits from their employer and for many reasons they do not register for the national health insurance system on an individual basis.