Japan Gov. Raises Maximum Permissible Level For Nuclear Plant Workers From 100 To 250 Millisieverts Per Year – It’s Dead Simple!

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100 mSv per year – lowest level at which any increase in cancer risk is clearly evident

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Workers at nuke plant complain about handling of radiation exposure data

In this April 18, 2011 photo released Wednesday, April 20, 2011 by Ehime University Medical Department Prof. Takeshi Tanigawa, workers, mostly employees of Tokyo Electric Power Co., engaged in operations at the tsunami-damaged Fukushima Dai-ichi Nuclear Power Plant, take rest inside a gymnasium that serves as their temporary dormitory at Fukushima Dai-ni Nuclear Power Plant in Naraha, 14 kilometers (9 miles) south of the former plant in Fukushima Prefecture, Japan. (AP Photo/Ehime University Medical Department Prof. Takeshi Tanigawa)

Emergency workers, engaged in desperate efforts to contain the crippled nuclear reactors in northeastern Japan, are lashing out at the government and contractors for their inconsistent handling of data on their exposure to radiation.

Some emergency workers say the government has been inconsistently and vaguely applying a “special measure” governing the maximum permissible level of radiation workers are allowed to be exposed to, allowing some workers to avoid the requirement to register their radiation exposure.

Exposure to a total of 100 millisieverts is usually the permissible level for nuclear plant workers dealing with an emergency, but the government took a “special measure” to raise the limit to 250 millisieverts for the ongoing crisis at the Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant.

“In the end, we are the workers who are exposed,” said an emergency worker. “If the radiation data is handled vaguely, workers may not be able to have proof of their exposure to radiation if they need to fight court battles,” said a person related to the nuclear industry.

A 30-year-old emergency worker from a subcontractor said he had been told by an official of a primary contractor shortly before joining in restoration work at the troubled nuclear power plant in late March that, “The dose of radiation you are going to be exposed to this time will not be on your radiation exposure registration record. So, don’t worry.”

In late March, the president of his company which specializes in checking pumps told him: “We were asked by our client to send someone just for three days. If the situation is really bad, you can come back in the middle of your work. I want you to go just for three days right away.” The man then headed for the nuclear power plant. He did not know any details of what he was supposed to do there. But after arriving at the scene of the crisis, he was told to connect electric cables necessary to restore power to a spent nuclear fuel pool, which is out of his domain. “They seem to be desperate to attract any available workers to restore electric power no matter what,” he said.

He carried on with his job while receiving instructions from experienced workers: “I took a long time to do the job because I had never done it before, and I was unnecessarily exposed to radiation.” At that time, dosimeters were in short supply, with only one given to his group of six.

The work had to be done in between water injections, and therefore there were times when it lasted until 2 a.m., or it started at 6 a.m., etc. He stayed in a special quake-resistant building with space wide enough for only one person to lie down. But the building was packed with workers. “I couldn’t even take a nap there. It was really tough. If I were to work as hard as possible, two days there would be the limit,” he said.

He ended up working for three days for a total of about 12 hours, and the radiation he was exposed to was about 50 millisieverts, one fifth of the legal limit set under the “special measure.” “Usually, there is no way of getting exposed to that much radiation,” he said. The daily allowance for the job is usually about 15,000 yen, but it had not been fixed in advance. A similar job was advertised for 170,000 yen a day. In that case, he would have earned 500,000 yen in just three days.

His radiation exposure registration booklet was kept at a primary contractor he had worked for before the March 11 earthquake, and therefore he did not have it with him. “I haven’t had it for a long time, and therefore I am not sure if the radiation I was exposed to this time was added on to my registration booklet,” he said. There is no way of confirming it because the company has not been operating since the earthquake.

On the inconsistent handling of radiation exposure for emergency workers, a 28-year-old man with a construction company, who was engaged in repair work at the nuclear power plant, said, “I think they’re handling it that way because they feel they won’t be able to stop the reactors otherwise.”

In this photo released by Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency, Tokyo Electric Power Co. workers collect data in the control room for Unit 1 and Unit 2 at the tsunami-crippled Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant in Okumamachi, Fukushima Prefecture, Japan, Wednesday, March 23, 2011.(AP)

“The way the registration booklets are handled varies from one subcontractor to another. Presumably, subcontractors may not put the latest date on the registration booklets in a bid to receive orders in the future. The company may be able to receive orders, but the people left holding the bag in the end are the workers,” he said.

(Mainichi Japan) April 21, 2011

Source: The Mainichi Daily News

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