The Spark

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.” — Karl Marx

Japanese Temps at Nuclear Plants

Apr 18, 2011

Severely damaged units of Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, caused by the earthquake, have still not been contained after more than a month of intervention, releasing radiation and contaminants to the environment. The dangerous containment work on these radioactive reactors is done by workers, most of whom are untrained, itinerant, temporary laborers.

The Tokyo Electric Power Company, which owns these nuclear plants, did not start to employ these temps because of unusual conditions forced by the earthquake. Employing temps at nuclear reactors is a typical daily practice. Eighty-eight% of the workers running Japan’s 18 commercial nuclear power plants are temps, according to Japan’s Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency.

In a usual day in any nuclear plant, these workers have the most dangerous jobs – exposed to levels of radiation about 16 times higher than those faced by regular company employees. Under intense heat, they clean off radiation from the reactors’ drywells and spent-fuel pools using mops and rags, and work in the cold to fill drums with radioactive waste. In the most dangerous places in the nuclear plant, where radiation levels are exceedingly high, the workers take turns. They do simple operations like opening and closing a valve for only a few seconds before a supervisor with a stopwatch asks the next worker to take over the job.

Still another side of this disaster provoked by an earthquake, but in reality caused by capital’s mad scramble for more profit.