Nine Workers at Fukushima Plant Faked Dosimeter Readings

The Asahi Shimbun reported July 21 that they followed a superior's advice to cover their dosimeters with small lead plates to keep radiation doses low so they could continue working. The newspaper reported July 22 that Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry personnel were searching for the discarded plates.

Nine workers covered their personal dosimeters with small lead plates for three hours last Dec. 1 at the suggestion of a supervisor so they could continue working at the crippled Fukushima Daiichi No. 1 nuclear plant, The Asahi Shimbun reported July 21. The newspaper's report said a meeting of the workers and the supervisor in which he encouraged the deception was recorded, and the report quotes the supervisor verbatim discussing how he had used the same method himself.

A unit of Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO), which operated the Fukushima plant, subcontracted some work to the construction company, named Build-Up, for which the supervisor worked. The workers were engaged in winding insulating material around hoses of a treatment system for radioactive water near four reactor buildings of the Fukushima No. 1 plant, according to the newspaper's report.

"Some refused the orders. Others raised questions about their safety and the legality of the practice. But the man in charge, a senior official of a subcontractor of Tokyo Electric Power Co., warned them that they would lose their jobs -- and any chance of employment at other nuclear plants -- if they failed to comply," the newspaper reported July 21. "The pocket-sized dosimeters sound an alarm when they detect high radiation levels. A worker who has been exposed to an accumulated dose of 50 millisieverts within a year must stop working and stay away from the area for a certain period of time."

The newspaper said Build-Up's president acknowledged July 21 that nine people worked at the plant while their dosimeters were shielded with lead plates. The newspaper reported July 22 that federal Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry personnel were searching the No. 1 plant site in an attempt to find the discarded lead plates. If they are found, the agency could take enforcement action.

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