Workers who remained in the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant even after it was hit by the huge earthquake and tsunami to deal with the fast-moving crisis were praised as heroes dubbed the “Fukushima 50.”
But the reality was that most were forced to do the dangerous work without vital information and safety precautions, the report by the Diet’s investigation panel has revealed.
The final report by the Diet’s Fukushima accident investigation panel has revealed that workers at the nuclear plant after the onset of the disaster were forced to tackle the accident without adequate information and or safety precautions.
The report, issued by the National Diet of Japan Fukushima Nuclear Accident Independent Investigation Commission on July 5, also reveals what Tokyo Electric Power Co. employees and subcontractors experienced and felt during operations after the Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami hit the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant on March 11, 2011.
Most of the employees of TEPCO subcontractors who remained in the plant engaged in work to contain the accident without information of the dangers posed by the reactors.
The commission surveyed about 5,500 workers and received responses from 44 percent of them.
According to the report, the rate of respondents who said they remained in the plant’s compound after the accident was 83 percent for TEPCO employees, 28 percent for main contractor employees and 14 percent for subcontractor employees.
Of such TEPCO employees, 47 percent said they were informed of the danger of the reactors by the utility, but 95 percent of main contractor employees and 98 percent of subcontractor employees said they were given no similar briefing, highlighting a major information gap.
The report also revealed TEPCO's lack of preparedness for dealing with radiation.
Of the workers who joined the containment operations by the end of March last year, 47 percent of TEPCO employees said just one dosimeter was provided to each group of workers due to a shortage of the gauges. The figure for main contractor employees was 48 percent and 54 percent for subcontractor employees.
The rate of those who said they worked without a dosimeter was 8 percent among TEPCO employees, 4 percent among main contractor employees and 12 percent among subcontractor employees.
Twenty-eight percent of TEPCO employees said they were never informed of their accumulated radiation doses, with 25 percent of main contractor employees and 35 percent of subcontractor employees saying the same.
Regarding radiation levels at their work areas, 13 percent of TEPCO employees and 24 percent of main contractor and subcontractor employees said they were never given any information.
More than 40 percent of the respondents filled in the blank part of the questionnaire where they could write comments. Many expressed their anxiety about radiation exposure and discontent about the lack of information provided by TEPCO and the central government.
“There was virtually no information about the accident in the plant,” one TEPCO employee wrote.
A subcontractor was quoted as saying, “Workers in marginal positions were never given the information that power sources had been lost.”
Another subcontractor said, “TEPCO officials failed to call for an evacuation to flee from the tsunami, but we led people to higher places.”
Added another, “At that time, there was never any health supervision or monitoring of radiation doses. I am worried about the amount of radioactive substances that may have built up in my body.”
The investigative commission concluded on the survey results that, “Radiation-exposure risks should have been thoroughly disclosed. There was also a problem in nuclear accident preparedness. Many of the workers had not been trained in how to work in the event of a nuclear accident.”
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