A worker employed by a contractor at the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant died on Friday after being buried by a sudden cave-in of a trench. TEPCO stated it regrets the work of the worker, but continues covering up the death of discharged Fukushima workers from exposure to radiation. TEPCO and the Government intimidate investigative journalists and workers who speak out.
In a press release TEPCO President Naomi Hirose expressed his and the company’s profound regret and extended his condolences to the worker’s family and assured that TEPCO would immediately launch an investigation into the accident.
The worker was one of a group of workers involved in the repair of foundation piles at a currently empty container storage facility. To access the piles, a 2-meter-deep trench had been dug on the north side of the building, reports TEPCO and describes the accident as follows:
The cave-in took place at approximately 2:20 pm on March 28, temporarily burying him. He was rescued and taken immediately to the emergency facility on the site, from which he was transferred to Iwaki Kyoritsu General Hospital at 3:26 pm. Despite receiving immediate care at the hospital, he was unfortunately pronounced dead at 5:22 pm.
TEPCO particularly stressed that “No radioactivity was detected on his body, and radiation played no role either in the accident or his death.”
TEPCO promises investigation – unqualified workers and the Yakuza.
TEPCO’s press release ends with company president Hirose pledging a thorough inquiry into the cause of the accident, whether workers and supervisors were following appropriate safety procedures, and what steps could be taken to prevent recurrence.
Some will argue that Hirose’s pledge of an investigation into the deadly accident is far from sufficient and that the problem is a failure to address fundamental, systemic problems. October 25, 2013, the Reuters news agency reported:
“The complexity of Fukushima contracts and the shortage of workers have played into the hands of the Yakuza, Japan’s organized crime syndicates, which have run labor rackets for generations.”
The director of the Canada – based Centre for Research on Globalization, Michel Chossudovsky, followed up on the issue, stating that:
“The Yakuza labor practices at Fukushima are based on a corrupt system of subcontracting, which does not favor the hiring of competent specialized personnel. It creates an environment of fraud and incompetence, which in the case of Fukushima could have devastating consequences. The subcontracting with organized crime syndicates is a means for major corporations involved in the clean-up to significantly reduce their labor costs.”
The situation prompts the question what exactly TEPCO President Hirose means when he states that the investigation should identify what steps could be taken to prevent recurrence, and whether that includes a thorough investigation into TEPCO’s contracting procedures.
Regretting the Death of One Worker while Covering Up the Death of Scores of Workers from Radiation. Intimidating Investigative Journalists.
Naomi Hirose states that he deeply regrets the death of the worker who died on Friday. The TEPCO president’s statement stands in stark contrast to the impressions TEPCO workers have. ENE News quotes an Al-Jazeera report about TEPCO worker “Tanaka”, saying:
Anonymous Fukushima worker ‘Tanaka’: “My job was to help workers remove their gear when they came back from dealing with contaminated water and debris, and to check them with a Geiger counter for contamination […] We used to wear charcoal filters, but because of the cost cuts, we got dust filters, like those you’d buy at a convenient store. Tepco employees wore charcoal filters in all locations. […] Tepco is God, the main contractors are kings, and we are slaves. […]
Michael Okwu, Al Jazeera correspondent: Like many nuclear workers approaching their radiation limit it’s unlikely that Tanaka will ever be hired at Fukushima again. He’s since lost his apartment, and is constantly sick. […]
Tanaka: Fatigue, tiredness, I get really tired. I can’t say whether radiation is the cause, but since used-up nuclear workers don’t get any compensation, I’m worried about my future. So some of it could be psychological.
While TEPCO and Hirose regret the death of one worker on Friday, Hitome, TEPCO and the Japanese government cover up the actual death toll. The death of many Fukushima workers who die from radiation exposure is covered-up by Fukushima Daiichi power plant operator TEPCO and the Japanese government, said Japanese journalist Mako Oshidori at an international conference on “The Effects of Nuclear Disasters on Natural Environment and Human Health”.
The conference was co-organized by the German chapter of International Physicians for Prevention of Nuclear War (IPPNW) and the Protestant Church in Hesse Nassau, on March 6, 2014, reports Energy News.
At the conference and a subsequent press conference, (recorded on video), Mako reported that she discovered a TEPCO memo, in which the Fukushima Daiichi operator TEPCO instructs officials to “cut Mako-chan’s (questions) short, appropriately”. Mako Oshidori was enrolled in the School of Life Sciences at Tottori University Faculty of Medicine for three years.
Click on the image to read the full, documented report about the TEPCO Memo.
Mako revealed that TEPCO and the government cover-up the death of Fukusjima workers and that government agents began following her around after she began investigating the cover-up. Mako said:
“I heard about it from researchers who were my friends as well as some government officials. I will show you a photo I secretly took of the agent, so you know what kind of surveillance I mean. When I would talk to someone, a surveillance agent from the central government’s public police force would come very close, trying to eavesdrop on the conversation….
“I would like to talk about my interview of a nurse who used to work at (the) Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant (NPP) after the accident. .. He was a nurse at Fukushima Daiichi NPP in 2012. He quit his job with TEPCO in 2013, and that’s when I interviewed him. …
“As of now of now, there are multiple NPP workers who have died, but only the ones who died on the job are reported publicly. Some of them have died suddenly while off work, for instance, during the weekend or in their sleep, but none of their deaths are reported. …
“Not only that, they are not included in the worker death count. For example, there are some workers who quit the job after a lot of radiation exposure, such as 50, 60 to 70 mili Sieverts, and end up dying a month later, but none of these deaths are either reported, or included in the death toll. This is the reality of the NPP workers”.
TEPCO President Naomi Hitome regrets the death of a worker on Friday and promises a full investigation to identify whether supervisors and workers have adhered to safety protocols, and to prevent recurrence. Neither Hitome or other TEPCO representatives have publicly addressed whether TEPCO will consider changing its contracting culture and procedures to address the problem with the Yacuza’s control over which companies are granted contracts, and which workers are hired.
Complaints like that of Fukushima worker Tanaka continue to emerge despite threats and despite a new national security law, adopted by the Japanese parliament in late 2013, that penalizes the unauthorized disclosure of information about the situation in and around the power plant with up to ten years behind bars.
TEPCO continues covering up the actual death toll among Fukushima workers. Workers who fall ill after radiation exposure are discharged by the contractors or by TEPCO. As Journalist Mako Oshidori disclosed, these workers silently die in their homes and their death is never reported, let alone registered as caused by radiation exposure at the TEPCO power plant in Fukushima.
TEPCO instructs spokespeople to “cut journalist’s questions short appropriately”, while the Japanese government uses police officers to follow journalists around, intimidating them.
Arguably, TEPCO President Naomi Hitome deeply regrets the death of a Fukushima worker on Friday, March 28, 2014, for all the wrong reasons. Arguably, a full inquiry into whether supervisors and workers have adhered to safety procedures adds to the cover-up of fundamental and systemic problems.
Dr. Christof Lehmann is the founder and editor of nsnbc. He is a psychologist and independent political consultant on conflict and conflict resolution and a wide range of other political issues. His work with traumatized victims of conflict has led him to also pursue the work as political consultant. He is a lifelong activist for peace and justice, human rights, Palestinians rights to self-determination in Palestine, and he is working on the establishment of international institutions for the prosecution of all war crimes, also those committed by privileged nations. On 28 August 2011 he started his blog nsnbc, appalled by misrepresentations of the aggression against Libya and Syria. In March 2013 he turned nsnbc into a daily, independent, international on-line newspaper. He can be contacted at nsnbc international at email@example.com