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Tepco cautioned about employing foreign workers at Fukushima nuclear plant under new visa system via The Japan Times

The government on Tuesday urged the operator of the disaster-stricken Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant to carefully examine the firm’s plan to have non-Japanese work at the complex under a new visa program, citing difficulties in managing long-term health risks.

“It is necessary to give very deliberate consideration” to whether non-Japanese who arrive under the new visa program should engage in decommissioning work at the plant, labor minister Takumi Nemoto told reporters.

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The minister expressed concern about the ability to conduct long-term health management for foreign workers after they return to their home countries upon expiration of their visas.

“It is necessary to establish a safety and health management procedure that is equivalent or more advanced than that for Japanese workers,” Nemoto said.

The new visa program, launched this April, is intended to bring in mainly blue-collar foreign workers to 14 labor-hungry sectors including construction, farming and nursing care in aging Japan. Tepco has confirmed with the Justice Ministry that holders of visas under the program are eligible to work at the Fukushima plant.

In a set of requests to Tepco, the government has urged the company to take measures to manage the amount of radiation to which workers engaged in decommissioning tasks are exposed.

It also requested that the utility study whether it can use native languages for workers who lack general proficiency in the Japanese language and familiarity with the country’s customs during safety training and when issuing safety warnings at workplaces.

The Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry has demanded Tepco report back to the ministry on the outcome of its deliberations, although it did not set a deadline.

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To prevent unsafe levels of radiation exposure, Tepco has said foreign workers must have Japanese language abilities that enable them to accurately understand the risks and to follow procedures and orders communicated to them in Japanese.

In radiation-controlled areas, workers need to carry dosimeters. On average, approximately 4,000 people work for Tepco subcontractors at the Fukushima No. 1 plant each day.

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