Nearly 10,000 people who worked at the stricken Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant are eligible for workers’ compensation if they develop leukemia, but few are aware of this and other cancer redress programs.
According to figures compiled by plant operator Tokyo Electric Power Co. in July, 9,640 people who worked at the plant between March 11, 2011, when the nuclear accident started, and Dec. 31 that year were exposed to 5 millisieverts or more of radiation.
Workers can receive compensation if they are exposed to 5 millisieverts or more per year and develop leukemia one year after they began working at the plant.
TEPCO figures showed that 19,592 people worked at the Fukushima No. 1 plant during the nine-month period and were exposed to 12.18 millisieverts on average.
The government has set standards for workers’ compensation for other cancers, such as malignant lymphoma, multiple myeloma, stomach cancer, esophagus cancer and colon cancer. Some were established after the Fukushima nuclear disaster.
Only four people who worked at the stricken Fukushima No. 1 plant have applied for compensation for cancer. Their requests are currently under review.
“The government does not appear to be serious about protecting workers,” said Saburo Murata, deputy director of Hannan Chuo Hospital, who is well-versed in radiation dose management. “It should provide medical checkups on its own responsibility as a way to steadily carry out decommissioning.”
The health ministry acknowledged it has no system to inform all workers of the standards for workers’ compensation. It said it is considering distributing leaflets.
By the end of June this year, 13,667 workers had been exposed to 5 millisieverts or more on an accumulated basis, according to TEPCO figures.
The number of workers reaching the 5-millisievert threshold for possible leukemia compensation is expected to further increase because TEPCO is planning measures that could expose them to high radiation levels. One immediate project at the Fukushima plant is dealing with the radioactive water accumulating at the site that is leaking into the ocean.
Under safety regulations, workers cannot work at nuclear plants if they have been exposed to more than 50 millisieverts per year or more than 100 millisieverts over five years.
Free cancer screenings offered by the ministry and TEPCO are limited to those who were exposed to more than 50 millisieverts per year and do not cover 90 percent of those who were exposed to 5 millisieverts or more per year.
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