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Harsh working conditions persist at Fukushima plant via Yomiuri Shimbun

By Junpei Monma / Yomiuri Shimbun Staff Writer
FUKUSHIMA — Workers trying to bring the situation under control at Tokyo Electric Power Co’s crippled Fukushima No.1 nuclear power plant continue to work in a severe environment 3½ years after the Great East Japan Earthquake.

To promote reactor decommissioning, which is expected to take 30 to 40 years, it is essential to improve that environment by addressing the workers’ dissatisfaction concerning issues such as decreased work efficiency due to the use of masks and the lack of space in resting rooms.
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Serious manpower shortages

A man from Hokkaido, who said it was the first time he had worked at a nuclear power plant, said: “In Hokkaido, it’s difficult to find a job. Recently, many people have tried to find a job either in Fukushima at the nuclear power plant or in Tokyo, where the Olympics will be held in 2020.”

Some people are concerned about the deteriorating work quality as the number of staff unfamiliar with working at such an environment increases. A local worker in charge of electrical work on the premises said: “As there aren’t enough workers, there was no choice but to entrust a person who had the experience of working at another nuclear power plant for just a few months to lead a group of workers. It wouldn’t be surprising if an accident occurred at any time.”

According to TEPCO, 25 workers experienced some work-related difficulties, such as injury or heat stroke, in fiscal 2012, but that figure increased to 32 in fiscal 2013. In March this year, a 55-year-old man died after he was buried in soil while excavating it. The accident was the first fatality since decommissioning work started.

Akihiro Yoshikawa, 34, former TEPCO employee now supporting workers at the No. 1 nuclear power plant, explained that manpower shortages have occurred because veteran workers left Fukushima unsatisfied with short-term contracts and an unstable existence. “TEPCO and the government should improve the work environment while taking into account the long-term decommissioning processes, and also make efforts to educate workers to improve their techniques,” he said.Speech

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