Apr 1, 2013
This article is from the March 15th issue of Lutte Ouvrière (Workers Struggle), the paper of the revolutionary workers group of that name active in France.
Two years after the Fukushima nuclear reactor disaster caused by the earthquake and tsunami that ravaged the coast of Japan, the situation is worse than ever. The Japanese nuclear industry can be described as irresponsible and corrupt, lured on by the hope of profit, completely silent about the dangers the inhabitants of the region continue to face.
Large public works companies were given the decontamination job, chosen only because they knew the right people in the government. They still send out workers to the reactor site, using shovels and brooms on radioactive materials, because these are cheaper than using machines. Three thousand workers take turns day and night, putting a few inches of dirt and branches into trash bags and trash cans. This nuclear waste is unmonitored, and no one knows where to put it. So far, the job of decontamination is only 15% complete. A manager of Tepco, the company that had run the nuclear facility, claimed he planned to throw radioactive water from Fukushima into the Pacific – as if it were only a drop of water in the ocean! No one has any idea what to do with the contaminated water.
The workers doing the decontamination are employed by Tepco or by its sub-contractors. Even the Japanese mafia sent some workers. Some are paid half of what construction workers get. They work under conditions that endanger their health and safety and are completely illegal. A third of the workers don’t even have a labor contract. They remain on the site until the radiation they’ve absorbed amounts to 100 millisieverts, the maximum permitted dose. Some bosses force their workers to cover the radiation device they wear to hide the dose they’ve received. The Minister of Health says more than 200 workers have been exposed beyond the limit of radiation, but in truth, a lot more have been overexposed.
It will take years for the real impact of this disaster on the health of the inhabitants of the Fukushima region to be accurately measured. But the real extent of the damage will only be known if health organizations and the Japanese government are completely candid about the situation – which is not what’s happening right now.
A more immediate problem for the people evacuated from a radius of 12 miles around the reactor is compensation. Businesses that furnished faulty materials – General Electric, Hitachi and Toshiba – deny they have any responsibility. Tepco claims it is impossible to pay for the damage caused by its irresponsibility. The Japanese government nationalized Tepco in June 2012, assuming the cost of compensation, but is reluctant to pay up.
Even though the tsunami swept away their homes, the inhabitants are asked for documentation! The 160,000 displaced people have received only a fraction of what they were supposed to get. What they’ve gotten is so little they cannot begin a new life or even live on it. And those who don’t want to return to the region, afraid for their health and their children’s, they have no right to any compensation if they move out of the area without being compelled to do so by the government.
Will there one day be a return to normal at Fukushima? Will the Japanese population feel truly safe from a repetition of such a catastrophe? No, not so long as nuclear energy remains in the hands of cheats, liars, and irresponsible idiots who grab more money by scrimping on safety, protected by a complicit state. This is true for the Japanese nuclear industry and it’s the same everywhere in the world, where production is controlled by a handful of profiteers who put profit before the lives of the entire population.