National

Tepco won't hire foreign nationals with new visas for Fukushima nuclear work until safety guaranteed

Kyodo

The operator of the disaster-hit Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant will not hire foreign nationals who enter Japan under a new visa program for decommissioning work at the complex until it can confirm that their safety will be ensured.

The decision, made Wednesday, comes after the labor ministry told Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc. that the company needs to be careful about sending foreign workers to the plant, where workers are required to precisely follow safety instructions.

Japan introduced the new visa status on April 1 to cope with a chronic labor shortage due to the country’s rapidly graying population and low birthrate. The major policy shift from the country’s traditionally strict immigration rules will bring in mainly blue-collar foreign workers to 14 sectors.

Tepco has told subcontractors not to dispatch foreign workers they hire under the new visa program to the plant until the utility finalizes its foreign labor policy for decommissioning work.

The company had said it planned to accept foreign workers at the plant after confirming with the Justice Ministry that holders of the new visas are eligible to work at the Fukushima complex, which was crippled by the massive earthquake and tsunami in March 2011. An average of around 4,000 people engage in decommissioning work at the site each day.

The government expects to bring in thousands of foreign blue-collar workers over the next five years under two types of visas. Under the first status, foreign nationals are eligible to work in 14 sectors, including nursing care, construction and farming. Workers with higher levels of skills in the construction and shipbuilding fields will be eligible for a second visa status, which allows holders to bring in family members and does not limit the number of times visas can be renewed.