NAKA, IBARAKI PREF. – The Japan Atomic Energy Agency is assembling equipment for an experiment to help achieve nuclear fusion power generation.
The work began Monday, and the equipment will be assembled over six years at the agency’s Naka Fusion Institute in Naka, Ibaraki Prefecture.
The experiment, scheduled to start in March 2019, will focus on transforming the fuel into a high-pressure plasma state, aiming to achieve electricity generation by re-creating the nuclear fusion reactions inside the sun.
The equipment, called JT-60SA, will be built jointly by Japan and European countries.
Superconducting coil and vacuum vessels inside the equipment will use strong magnetic fields and electric current to contain the plasma.
Monday saw the installation of part of the base, which was transported from Spain.
Japan and European countries are investing ¥63.5 billion in the experiment under the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor project based in France.
In nuclear fusion generation, 1 gram of fuel would produce energy equivalent to that generated from 8 tons of petroleum, through the atomic fusion of deuterium extracted from seawater and tritium.
Too few for cleanup work
Fukushima Prefecture faces severe labor shortages for decontamination work from the nuclear meltdown crisis that started in 2011 because of fears over radiation exposure and low pay.
According to the Fukushima Labor Bureau, only about 10 percent of some 1,800 jobs offered for decontamination work in the prefecture get filled.
“The decontamination work cannot last,” an official of a local contractor said. Delays in decontamination work are hampering efforts to rebuild the prefecture.
“Many people expect high wages for decontamination work, because of worries about radiation exposure,” said Shunichi Hirotani, an official at the Hello Work public job-placement center for the northern part of the prefecture.
“In reality, wages for the work are almost the same as those for regular construction work,” Hirotani said.
At the job center, the lowest monthly wages offered for decontamination work in November averaged ¥190,000, about ¥20,000 higher than the figure for the overall construction industry in the area.
The highest wages for decontamination work averaged ¥260,000, compared with ¥250,000 for the industry as a whole.
The basic labor cost for decontamination work is the same as that for general civil engineering work, said Shinji Kato, president of Sato Kogyo Ltd., a construction company based in the city of Fukushima. The wages cannot be changed, he claimed.
There are limits to meeting calls for early decontamination work because of labor shortages, Kato said.
Prices of decontamination work have been falling, said an official at a construction company involved in the work in the city of Fukushima and the neighboring town of Kawamata.
Since major general contractors win most of the decontamination projects ordered by the central and local governments, many local companies are working as subcontractors.
An official at one subcontractor said the company gets only some 30 to 40 percent of what the central and local governments pay for decontamination work.
All 10 employees at the subcontractor are in their 40s or older. Although the company wants more workers, it has received almost no inquiries about jobs it advertised in November.