Working conditions ‘must improve’

Kyodo News

Tokyo Electric Power Co. is expected to improve the tough working environment of its employees and other workers trying to bring the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant under control, Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry Banri Kaieda said Tuesday.

Kaieda, deputy head of the nuclear disaster task force set up by the government and Tepco, said around 500 to 600 people were at one point lodging in a building on the plant’s premises and that was “not a situation in which minimum sleep and food could be ensured.”

His remarks came after an official in the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency reported that workers were only eating two meals a day, such as crackers and dried rice, and sleeping in conference rooms and hallways in the building.

The official stayed at the nuclear plant for five days through Saturday to check on progress in the ongoing operations.

Kaieda said he was also told that not all workers had been equipped with lead sheeting to shield them from possible radiation contamination on the floors while sleeping.

“The workers, as well as the Self-Defense Forces and firefighters, are working under extremely harsh conditions . . . so (the conditions for) food and sleep must be improved first,” Kaieda said.