A Monday article in the Asahi Shimbun (#2 circulation in Japan) attacks the 3,000 workers at Fukushima Daiichi for allegedly engaging in “A hidden world of untruths, unethical behavior”. The Asahi tries to make the exception seem to be the rule with the people laboring to recover from the Fukushima accident. Recently, one sub-contractor’s supervisor told his team to cover their dosimeters with lead to lower their measured exposure. Now, the Asahi says such practices are endemic at F. Daiichi. As evidence, the Asahi presents hearsay to support their contention that such practices are usual and customary. The newspaper thus concludes, “It emerges that workers at nuclear plants routinely resorted to ingenious ways to conceal the true levels of radiation to which they were exposed–simply to go on earning a living. That is the disturbing picture that emerges from accounts given by more than 10 people, either working at nuclear power plants or now retired.” (emphasis added) Since when has rumor become valid evidence?
In one example, a man (un-named) in his 30’s who has worked at F. Daiichi recalled seeing a box of dosimeters in the back seat of a car in May. He said he returned hours later and the box of dosimeters was still there. Thus, he assumed that workers inside the nuclear plant were not wearing their dosimeters. The “whistle-blower” said he had seen something similar no less than five times before that. To continue the rumor-mongering, Asahi adds “A man in his 40s echoed his colleague’s comments. He said that between March and April, there were 10 occasions when he noticed 10 sets of such items placed in a vehicle within the same parking lot.” Talk about making wild, unfounded assumptions! Did they check to see if the dosimeters were spares, un-needed for that day? Did they report it to anyone? Did they do anything other than make a paranoiac speculation? The answer to all these questions seems to be a resounding “No!”
The Asahi then extends their conclusion to the nuclear industry at-large, “…it is now clear that such practices have been in place for years, if not decades.” Why does Asahi say this? Because a former worker at F. Daiichi said, “If a worker diligently carried a dosimeter, he would not be able to work because the radiation levels would increase and set off the alarm. I felt it was only natural to place the dosimeters in the lead container. I have no idea how much radiation I was really exposed to.” To exacerbate the rumor, the man added, “The company also does not allow me to get health checks for cancer. I am very concerned about my health.” He also said such cheating is commonplace because he saw other workers hide their dosimeters behind panels in a reactor building. The Asahi then tells us of a retired man in his 70s who worked at several nuclear plants in western Japan. He talked about taking part in this “underhand” practice more than a decade ago. He said one worker would collect the dosimeters of his colleagues and take them where radiation levels were low. “Workers of the electric power company and plant manufacturers also turned a blind eye to such practices,” he said. “That was a well-known practice among anyone who worked at nuclear plants for a number of years.” Tepco denies knowledge of any of these allegations.
The Asahi also intimates that not wearing dosimeters may have cost workers their lives. Ryusuke Umeda, 78, says his not wearing dosimeters caused him to receive radiation which caused a heart attack. He tried suing Tepco for it. His case was rejected, but he blames the government, “Although I have repeatedly pointed out the problem, the central government has not even bothered to conduct an investigation.” The Asahi fails to mention that there is no connection between occupational radiation exposure and heart attacks, which was the reason the suit was not heard. Another man says his eyesight has deteriorated due to “inflammation” caused by excessive exposure to radiation due to faking dosimeter readings. In this case, the Asahi admits “…the relationship with radiation exposure is unclear,” but sloughs it aside by quoting the individual’s most-serious contention, “Nuclear plants would not operate unless there were people like me willing to sacrifice their lives.”
The impression is clearly given that the way to keep a nuclear job is to lie about personal radiation exposure, and further that such behavior is tantamount to a death sentence. Not only are nuclear workers untrustworthy, but they are suicidal money-grubbers. The real problem is the Asahi itself, unabashedly subjecting their more than 8 million daily readers to rumor-predicated, antinuclear-agenda-biased journalism with respect to nuclear workers. In the process, the newspaper has surely aggravated the recently-documented discriminatory behavior many Japanese inflict on F. Daiichi workers.