Op-Ed: Fukushima — Another failure and another attempt at a fix

Posted Nov 28, 2014 by Karen Graham
The Pacific Ocean is continuing to be damaged beyond repair by the constant flow of over 400 tons of radioactive groundwater every day from the ill-fated Fukushima power plant. Now the world discovers one-third of workers have fake contracts.
Workers construct an ice wall at the tsunami-crippled Fukushima nuclear plant in Okuma  Fukushima Pr...
Workers construct an ice wall at the tsunami-crippled Fukushima nuclear plant in Okuma, Fukushima Prefecture, northeast of Tokyo on July 9, 2014
Kimimasa Mayama, Pool/AFP/File
Tokyo Electric Power, TEPCO, has continued to be beset with problems over the clean-up of the Fukushima nuclear power plant. Not only have repeated attempts to get the "ice wall" operational failed, but the latest TEPCO survey of their 6,567 contract workers at the station has shown that one-third of them are working with fake contracts.
Company officials met with government representatives in Iwaki, Fukushima Prefecture, on Tuesday to discuss the increasing amount of radioactive water at the plant. TEPCO reported they were beginning a new project to fill an underground trench at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant with cement, while at the same time, pumping up the radioactive water.
The first phase of the project started with pouring cement into the cable trench for reactor 2. The work is expected to be finished by the end March 2015. They plan to start pouring cement into reactor No. 3's trench next month, and this supposedly will also be finished by the end of March.
The two trenches together hold 11,000 tons of radioactive water. TEPCO officials say they believe this water is causing the pollution of the groundwater flowing into the Pacific Ocean from the undersea section of the plant. The plan was approved by the Nuclear Regulation Authority on Nov. 21. TEPCO says the special cement mixture does not absorb water so it can spread more easily over the bottom of the trenches, displacing the toxic water.
Now here is what is so asinine about this project; it is full of danger. The JapanTimes reported that TEPCO officials acknowledged that "under the new method, however, it would be difficult to drain all of this water and some of it would be left behind, endangering plant workers." Even with this acknowledgement, the Nuclear Regulatory Authority gave them the "green light' to proceed.
On to the false contract problems, it looks like there are some murky waters over labor conditions at the power plant. This is going on despite promises by TEPCO of better working conditions. Reuters uncovered a story in October of this year concerning the confusion workers were having over their contracts and hazard pay. In a nutshell, last November, TEPCO told workers they would double the amount for hazard pay to workers at the power plant.
So even though the government and TEPCO made the promises, it was found that 30 percent of contract workers were being paid by a different company, and not TEPCO. This is illegal under Japanese law. Many of the workers with the fake contracts asked on the survey if they were going to get the $180 a day increase in hazard pay promised by TEPCO. Company officials said this did not mean they would get the increase.