– Fukushima workers ‘told to ignore radiation alerts’ (ABC News, March 7, 2013):
A nuclear worker has told the ABC how he was ordered inside wearing insufficient protective gear to tackle the 2011 Fukushima nuclear plant meltdown.
Just a few days before the second anniversary of the crisis, a picture is emerging of what workers endured at the crippled plant.
In an exclusive interview with the ABC, the man also said two of his ill-equipped colleagues suffered beta-ray burns when they had to wade through radioactive water.
The ABC met with the man, who only wants to be known by his given name of Shinichi, in an old house in a town not far from the plant.
Shinichi has 17 years’ experience at nuclear facilities run by TEPCO, including the Fukushima plant.
Ten days after the tsunami had slammed into the Fukushima plant, triggering meltdowns in three of the reactors, Shinichi and five of his colleagues were ordered into the plant.
Wearing raincoats, facemasks and radiation readers, the workers had to cut their way into the damaged turbine building.They were told to connect a cable and not to worry about the radiation.
“Because I had worked at the Fukushima plant I was told to help lay cables to get power back on to the Reactor 3 turbine building. I was not told what it was like inside,” he said.
“As we started to work, our radiation readers started beeping.
“We couldn’t see anything inside because it was so dark. When I switched on my head lamp I looked down and saw water reflecting in the light. Water was everywhere.”
Three of Shinichi’s colleague’s descended into the basement of the Reactor 3 turbine building and into the contaminated water.
One of the men had long rubber boots on, but his two co-workers only had ankle-high boots and the warm water was quickly sloshing inside them.
“It was eerie. And although I was scared, I couldn’t leave,” Shinichi said.
“But it was worse for the men down in the water. The feet of two workers wearing the short rubber boots were soon soaked.”
The pair suffered beta-ray burns to their feet and legs, although their injuries were not life threatening.
Most of the men complained to their team leader that their radiation readers were sending out warnings that radiation limits had been reached.
But the team leader, who was a manager with a large subcontractor to TEPCO, dismissed their concerns, saying the radiation readers must be broken.
Three of the team were exposed to 180 millisieverts of radiation, or nearly four times the annual safe limit.
Hiroyuki Watanabe, a councillor in Iwaki City, just south of the plant, was among those sent to investigate work practises at the plant.
He says conditions were poor.
“I have a five-year-old son at home,” he said.
“Every time I would return home I would have to strip off my clothes at the entrance and take a bath immediately, just so I didn’t bring radiation into my home and family.
“Workers are losing their passion to work there because conditions are deteriorating.
“Some have had their danger pay ripped off them by subcontractors.
“Others have been dumped and left without any work at all as soon as they reach their radiation exposure limit.”
Shinichi is now taking legal action over his treatment, arguing that TEPCO and the contractor that sent him into the turbine building broke the law.