Tepco to boost amenities, indirect wages

Fukushima No. 1 workers to get raise, perks

by Kazuaki Nagata

Staff Writer

Aiming to boost the morale of workers at the crippled Fukushima No. 1 plant, Tokyo Electric Power Co. said Friday it will raise wages and construct two new office buildings, an eight-story “rest station” and a food service center in the facility’s compound.

Tepco will double the extra pay for dangerous work at the Fukushima plant to ¥20,000 per day. The money, however, will first go to Tepco’s contractors and not the workers themselves.

Concerns have recently been raised over bad working conditions at the nuclear plant, which has seen a number of leaks of contaminated water into the nearby sea and soil.

Ahead of the announcement, Tepco President Naomi Hirose met with Nuclear Regulation Authority Chairman Shunichi Tanaka on Oct. 28, who urged him to maintain morale at the dangerous plant.

“We have come up with measures to maintain worker motivation and improve their working environment,” Hirose told reporters at Tepco headquarters.

The “rest station,” to be built next to the plant’s main gate, will accommodate as many as 1,200 people, while the food service center will have capacity to provide meals for 3,000 people.

Both will be built by the end of fiscal 2014, the utility said.

Currently, most Tepco workers are based in an office building at the Fukushima No. 2 plant, about 10 km from No. 1.

One of the two new office buildings will be built by next June within the No. 1 plant’s compound. It will eliminate the need for Tepco employees to make the trip between the two plants, the utility said.

Tepco said it will also provide more buses for commuting as well as other amenities and additional medical supplies.

Whether these measures will actually benefit all of the workers remains an open question.

Many manual laborers are hired through multiple layers of subcontractors, which reportedly often exploit site workers by charging commissions at each stage of the multiple subcontracts.

By implementing these measures, “we are expecting that the decommissioning work will proceed more smoothly,” Hirose said.

He also said the utility will work on better measures for handling the radioactive water stored in the hundreds of tanks at the plant.

For instance, recent heavy rain caused radioactive rainwater to overflow the concrete-fenced enclosures around the storage tanks, so now Tepco will make the walls higher, he said.

Also, to prevent tank spills, the utility will be putting more caulking compounds and sealant materials on the bottoms and bolts of the flange-type tanks, of which one suffered a leak of 300 tons of contaminated water.

More than 1,000 tanks have been set up within the plant’s compound to contain radioactive water. Of them, 350 are of the flange-type.