According to a leaked tape of an internal meeting, a company charged with decontaminating the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant, forced workers to lower their radiation readings.
The workers were given lead boxes by a senior executive, which they were told to make into shields. They were told to place these over the dosimeters and, as lead effectively blocks radiation, significantly lower readings were produced.
Some of the workers refused, and the executive then called a meeting. According to a tape that was given by somebody present at the meeting to the Asahi Shimbun newspaper, the executive was heard to tell the workers, “You can no longer make a living when the dose runs out,”
"I think this is almost a crime," retorts one of the workers.
After this an argument broke out, and while the executive said the decision was voluntary, his tone became threatening. He said, "Perhaps you are not cut out for working at nuclear plants. Go back to your hometown and do some other job."
Three of the workers resigned immediately, while at least nine agreed to use the lead shields.
Plant workers at nuclear sites are not allowed to be exposed to more than 50 millisieverts of radiation per year. However, managers at Build-up, a company providing insulation on the pipes that pump irradiated water out of the plant, believe that with doses experienced inside the plant, workers would quickly reach their limit.
With three of the reactors at Fukushima suffering full meltdowns, potentially fatal doses of radiation, exceeding the normal levels by a factor of thousands, were released.
According to the official logs, one of the workers who agreed to use the shield was among those exposed to the highest dose of radiation, out of all the 5,000 clean-up operatives at the plant. His real exposure is likely to have been even higher.
The company, Build-up, worked at the site from November 2011 to March 2012 and has admitted that workers used the shields on at least one occasion.
A worker that started working at the Fukushima Daiichi plant last month has recently been working on covering Reactor No. 3. On July 10, he sent the following tweet, translated by Fukushima Diary:
"been having diarrhea since 2 days ago. couldn’t sleep at all, shall sleep already today."
In a further tweet on July 19, the worker said:
"been covering reactor3. A trouble happened, had to go up the reactor building. APD immediately alarmed 3 times. tried to get back quickly but it alarmed again on ladder. Today’s integral dose was 1.69mSv/h. People who remained there to work had it to be 2.55mSv/h, they were called for the seismic isolation building."
The Japanese government has said that it will launch an investigation.