Crime up among No. 1 plant staff

JIJI

The number of decontamination workers in Fukushima Prefecture suspected of committing crimes has been rising, bringing the total to 101 as of the end of August, the National Police Agency said.

The rise is likely due to an increase in the number of workers brought into the prefecture to meet growing demand for decontamination work, an NPA official said Thursday.

In the first eight months of this year, 74 such workers were charged with crimes such as theft and fights resulting in injury. The figure is already close to three times the 2012 total of 26.

The police reported only one such suspect in 2011, the first year of the nuclear crisis at the Fukushima No. 1 power plant.

The increase has been particularly noticeable this summer, with 48 decontamination workers charged with breaking the law from June through August.

About 60 percent of the workers who have been charged came from outside the prefecture. They were mostly suspected of theft, such as shoplifting at supermarkets, or of harming others during brawls in their lodgings or bars.

In one extreme case, people were held hostage as a result of a disagreement over hiring practices. In other cases, workers have broken into evacuated homes.

In contrast, the overall number of crimes handled by police in Iwate, Miyagi and Fukushima — the three prefectures hardest hit by the March 2011 disasters — dropped 21.8 percent in March-August this year compared with the same period in 2010. Across the country, reported crimes fell 16.9 percent.

But the number of people engaged in violence such as assaults and injury to others increased by 12.0 percent in the three prefectures, up significantly compared with a 3.7 percent rise nationwide.

The number of such crimes was unchanged in Iwate, but Miyagi and Fukushima saw increases as “more people came to the prefectures from outside for reconstruction work,” the NPA said.

Oi reactor leaks steam

Leaking steam in the turbine building of the idled reactor 3 at the Oi nuclear plant in Fukui Prefecture set off an alarm at around 1:20 p.m. Thursday, Kansai Electric Power Co. reported.

The leak probably occurred after a worker mistakenly opened a pipe valve. The flow of steam stopped after the valve was quickly closed, Kepco said.

The steam emitted contained no radioactive substances and there was no impact outside of the reactor, which is currently offline for routine checks, it said.