Japan Earthquake and Tsunami News

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Re: Japan Earthquake and Tsunami News

Postby Su DongPo » Sun Apr 10, 2011 12:05 am

With the threat of imminent melt-down and radiation leaks at the reactors in northeastern Japan beginning to pass, details of the seamy side of the TEPCO's (the utility operating the plants) are becoming more prominent --

April 9, 2011
Japanese Workers Braved Radiation for a Temp Job
By HIROKO TABUCHI

KAZO, Japan — The ground started to buck at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, and Masayuki Ishizawa could scarcely stay on his feet. Helmet in hand, he ran from a workers’ standby room outside the plant’s No. 3 reactor, near where he and a group of workers had been doing repair work. He saw a chimney and crane swaying like weeds. Everybody was shouting in a panic, he recalled.

Mr. Ishizawa, 55, raced to the plant’s central gate. But a security guard would not let him out of the complex. A long line of cars had formed at the gate, and some drivers were blaring their horns. “Show me your IDs,” Mr. Ishizawa remembered the guard saying, insisting that he follow the correct sign-out procedure. And where, the guard demanded, were his supervisors?

“What are you saying?” Mr. Ishizawa said he shouted at the guard. He looked over his shoulder and saw a dark shadow on the horizon, out at sea, he said. He shouted again: “Don’t you know a tsunami is coming?”

Mr. Ishizawa, who was finally allowed to leave, is not a nuclear specialist; he is not even an employee of the Tokyo Electric Power Company, the operator of the crippled plant. He is one of thousands of untrained, itinerant, temporary laborers who handle the bulk of the dangerous work at nuclear power plants here and in other countries, lured by the higher wages offered for working with radiation. Collectively, these contractors were exposed to levels of radiation about 16 times as high as the levels faced by Tokyo Electric employees last year, according to Japan’s Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency, which regulates the industry. These workers remain vital to efforts to contain the nuclear crisis at the Fukushima nuclear plants.

They are emblematic of Japan’s two-tiered work force, with an elite class of highly paid employees at top companies and a subclass of laborers who work for less pay, have less job security and receive fewer benefits. Such labor practices have both endangered the health of these workers and undermined safety at Japan’s 55 nuclear reactors, critics charge.

“This is the hidden world of nuclear power,” said Yuko Fujita, a former physics professor at Keio University in Tokyo and a longtime campaigner for improved labor conditions in the nuclear industry. “Wherever there are hazardous conditions, these laborers are told to go. It is dangerous for them, and it is dangerous for nuclear safety.”

more here --
http://www.nytimes.com/2011/04/10/world ... rkers.html
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Re: Japan Earthquake and Tsunami News

Postby Su DongPo » Tue Apr 12, 2011 8:39 am

Some day there will be good news about the recovery and rebuilding efforts in Japan, but today is not that day --

April 12, 2011
Japan Nuclear Disaster Put on Par With Chernobyl (from The New York Times)
By HIROKO TABUCHI and KEITH BRADSHER

TOKYO — Japan has decided to raise its assessment of the accident at the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant to the worst rating on an international scale, putting the disaster on par with the 1986 Chernobyl explosion, the Japanese nuclear regulatory agency said on Tuesday.

The decision to raise the alert level to 7 from 5 on the scale amounts to an admission that the accident at the nuclear facility, brought on by the March 11 earthquake and tsunami, is likely to have substantial and long-lasting consequences for health and for the environment. Some in the nuclear industry have been saying for weeks that the accident released large amounts of radiation, but Japanese officials had played down this possibility.

The new estimates by Japanese authorities suggest that the total amount of radioactive materials released so far is equal to about 10 percent of that released in the Chernobyl accident, said Hidehiko Nishiyama, deputy director general of Japan’s nuclear regulator, the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency.

Mr. Nishiyama stressed that unlike at Chernobyl, where the reactor itself exploded and fire fanned the release of radioactive material, the containments at the four troubled reactors at Fukushima remained intact over all.

But at a separate news conference, an official from the plant’s operator, Tokyo Electric Power Company, said, “The radiation leak has not stopped completely and our concern is that it could eventually exceed Chernobyl.”

On the International Nuclear Event Scale, a Level 7 nuclear accident involves “widespread health and environmental effects” and the “external release of a significant fraction of the reactor core inventory.” The scale, which was developed by the International Atomic Energy Agency and countries that use nuclear energy, leaves it to the nuclear agency of the country where the accident occurs to calculate a rating based on complicated criteria.

Japan’s previous rating of 5 placed the Fukushima accident at the same level as the Three Mile Island accident in Pennsylvania in 1979. Level 7 has been applied only to the disaster at Chernobyl, in the former Soviet Union.

“This is an admission by the Japanese government that the amount of radiation released into the environment has reached a new order of magnitude,” said Tetsuo Iguchi, a professor in the department of quantum engineering at Nagoya University. “The fact that we have now confirmed the world’s second-ever level 7 accident will have huge consequences for the global nuclear industry. It shows that current safety standards are woefully inadequate.”

[more here -- http://www.nytimes.com/2011/04/13/world ... japan.html ]
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