Workers at stricken nuclear plant endure tough conditions


Cooler King
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Each of the employees of Tokyo Electric Power Co and other workers engaged in containing damage at the stricken Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant is given 30 survival food crackers and a 180 milliliter pack of vegetable juice for breakfast after getting up just before 6 a.m.
Around 400 workers including subcontractors are working there and are given just two meals per day, according to Kazuma Yokota, an official of the government’s Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency.
Yokota stayed at the nuclear power plant damaged by the March 11 earthquake and tsunami for five days through March 26 to check on progress in the ongoing operations.
After breakfast, the workers move on to their respective assignments at various locations within the plant at the center of the worst nuclear crisis in Japan. The workers are given no lunch.
Until March 22, they were given only one 1.5 liter bottle of mineral water per day. From March 23, however, with more supplies having arrived, they can ask for one more bottle, according to the official.
As the sun starts to set at around 5 p.m., they come back to the building where they are lodging within the plant’s premises. The workers look worn out, according to Yokota.
Supper is also survival food item—dried rice and only one can of chicken or fish for each person. Boiled mineral water is put into the pack of ‘‘Magic Rice,’’ making it ready for consumption in about 15 minutes. The workers eat their meals quietly, though some say they want something a little better.
At 8 p.m., the workers have a meeting and report to each other about any progress made in their work. At the end of the meeting, before everyone realizes it, it has become a practice for them to clap their hands together at the call of an officer. It is then followed by a chant from others, ‘‘Gambaro!’’ (Let’s do our best!).
The radiation level within the building is 2-3 microsievert per hour. They sleep in conference rooms and hallways in the building. To shield them from radiation from the floor, they cover themselves with lead-containing sheets before they put on blankets.
Most workers are replaced by others in one week. Mobile phones cannot be used as no signals reach there. ‘‘The workers are doing their best while they cannot even contact their family members,’’ Yokota said.
Meanwhile, industry minister Banri Kaieda, who serves as a deputy head of the nuclear disaster task force jointly set up by the government and TEPCO, said Tuesday that around 500 to 600 people were at one point lodging in a building on the plant’s premises and that was ‘‘not a situation in which minimum sleep and food could be ensured.’‘
Kaieda said that he had also heard that not all of the workers had been equipped with lead sheeting to shield themselves from the possibly radiation-contaminated floors while sleeping, and some were leaning against walls as they were unable to lie down on floors.
‘‘The workers, as well as the Self-Defense Forces and firefighters, are working under extremely harsh conditions…so (the conditions for) food and sleep must be improved first,’’ the minister said.
Workers at stricken nuclear plant endure tough conditions › Japan Today: Japan News and Discussion

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