Fukushima Daiichi not only crisis TEPCO faces

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Fukushima Daiichi Unit 3 with Cover

Tokyo Electric Power Company has been arguably been dealing with more uncertainty than any other utility in the world for the last two years, but the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster is not the only threat to their ability to continue operations.  TEPCO has been unable to prevent a constant stream of key managers and personnel from quitting since the onset of the March 11th disaster.

In 2010, 130 employees opted for an early retiree package from the utility, a number that jumped to over 700 in 2012.  TEPCO has stated that over 1,200 key employees have quit since the disaster.  The utility has admitted that it senses it is in a critical state of affairs and that even its normal functions as a utility, power generation, transmission, and nuclear disaster compensation matters could be hindered by the outflow of critical employees.

The workers who leave often do so due to the uncertainty related to the future of their jobs – as all but two nuclear reactors in Japan are shutdown with no set date for restart, or financial concerns – as TEPCO has slashed the annual salaries of its managers by some 30% over the last fiscal year alone.

Others are unable to handle the new criticism that comes with working for TEPCO from the public as many believe that the utility has not brought the disaster under control or fully compensated those who are most affected by the disaster.  A research team led by a professor emeritus from Tokyo Woman’s Christian University sent out questionnaires in March of 2013 to 1,200 people across Japan between the ages of 15 and 79.  94% of respondents felt that the Fukushima disaster was not under control as the government and TEPCO have claimed.

Many workers, if they were being honest, may also share concerns about the increased health risk of working for a utility in charge of such a complicated and dangerous decommissioning project which will require decades to bring under control.  TEPCO announced on Friday that nearly 2,000 workers who assisted efforts at the Fukushima Daiichi plant exposed their thyroids to doses of radiation exceeding the 100 millisievert threshold which, according to doctors, puts them at higher risk of getting thyroid cancer in the future.

The workers have a right to be concerned it seems, TEPCO does not have a reputation or track record of being forthcoming about problems with the cleanup.  The workers themselves have expressed many worries that the utility is providing them with little or no information about the radiation levels they are being exposed to or the accumulated doses which they are being subjected to.  In December of 2012, TEPCO reported to the World Health Organization that of the 522 workers who had radiation doses checked – only 178 workers at the plant were believed to have exceeded the 100 millisievert threshold, but Japan’s own health ministry questioned the criteria used by the utility to estimate exposures, told the utility its figures were too conservative, and called on TEPCO to re-evaluate its methodologies and estimates.

As long as TEPCO continues to push for restarts of its idled nuclear reactors without bringing the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster under control it is unlikely there will be a lull in criticism or the outflow of workers in the near future.

Source: NHK

Source: Asahi Shimbun

Source: The West Australian

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