Mako Oshidori of Yoshimoto Creative Agency is a member of the Manzai Kyokai (The Association for Stand-up Comedians) and of the Board of Directors of the Free Press Association of Japan. She regularly attends press conferences given by public authorities and TEPCO since the outbreak of the Great East Japan Earthquake.
Why skimp on money and time in the management of a level 7 nuclear accident?
Worker: I think that leaks here and there are a normal thing.
– Are you serious? Why?
Worker: Because it was a situation of emergency in which a lot of facilities were built in a rush. After the accident, facilities were being built in such a speedy fashion that it did not matter if they had to last for only one year or so.
Some constructors have even put the sentence “Quality is not guaranteed” in the contract. Facilities built and supposed “to last for only one year” are still being used. It is normal that their condition deteriorates.
Worker: In addition the effort to secure “cheaper commissions in order to cut down expenses” is also a problem. The government allocates funds to TEPCO for the management of the nuclear power plant accident, but the money is not a grant. It is a debt and must be refunded in the future.
Since the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant is not expected to generate profit in the future, it is normal that TEPCO seek to reduce its debt as much as possible.
That is the reason why “cutting the budget, reducing the cost, and using lower price materials” for constructions and facilities in the management of the nuclear power plant accident is the order of the day.
Worker: It is stinginess not only with money but with time, too. Orders such as “It is the fiscal year-end. So hurry up and complete the construction work!” are common. Sometime you hear things such as “It is the fiscal year-end, there is no more funding available”. Why should the “fiscal year-end” take priority over any other matter in an unsettled situation of a Level 7 nuclear disaster?
Is it alright to entrust the management of a nuclear power plant accident to just one business entity such as TEPCO? As long as TEPCO is a business entity, it is in pursuit of profit and book closing at the year-end is part of that. So, I think that things won’t work if the management of the accident and the decommissioning project of the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant are not separated from TEPCO and entrusted to an ad hoc specialized team.
As I mentioned a little earlier, we are now working with people who subcontract with up to the ninth lower company. Suppose that a team of 10 workers doing the same work has members with different contract statuses, say, subcontractors who are under the supervision of a third or a sixth lower company. To avert the so-called “Contract Fraud”, team leaders of the prime or the second contractors are not allowed to give direct instructions to workers of the sixth or ninthsubcontract companies.
It is true that giving direct instructions without direct employment is illegal and there is a lot to be done about the whole dark side of the construction industry. However, such regulations might turn out to be a hindrance to an effective management of the nuclear power plant accident.
At work sites, team leaders can’t give instructions such as “this work should be done like this” in fear of being taxed with contract fraud in case the concerned person complains that “I received instructions from someone who I has no direct employment relationship with.” So, the leaders are afraid to give instructions. That is another problem.
Certainly contract fraud is wrong. But, in a situation where people of various statuses have to work together due to the shortage of manpower, such regulations are quite unreasonable. I hope that such working conditions are going to be changed. The government and other organizations should join forces to manage all the labor for an effective management of the accident. This is one of the reasons why I think that TEPCO should step down from the management of the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant.