• Kyodo


A worker at the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant died Saturday after collapsing while carrying equipment at a waste disposal building, Tokyo Electric Power Co. said.

The cause of death wasn’t immediately known, but Tepco said no radioactive substances were detected on his body.

The worker, whose name was not released, was in his 60s and did not appear to be injured, the utility said.

The death is the third at the plant since the crisis began. The bodies of two workers who disappeared March 11 were found floating in the basement of reactor 4 later that month, having died from injuries sustained on the day of the disaster.

The man had started working at the plant Friday and was wearing protective gear, including a full face mask, at the time of his collapse, Tepco said.

He was exposed to radiation totaling 0.17 millisievert — a level considered to have little effect on health — while no radioactive substances were detected on his body, the utility said.

The man, who was working for a subcontractor, collapsed about one hour after he began working at 6 a.m. with another worker at the waste disposal processing facility. He fell unconscious when he was taken to a medical room inside the plant after 7 a.m., Tepco said.

The other worker has not complained of any health problems.

Apart from radiation, workers at the plant are facing serious health threats ranging from poor meals to mental stress.

It took until May 4 for Tepco to say it would improve the workers’ meals by replacing precooked, packaged food with “bento” boxes.

In addition, workers on the frontline have no doctors to provide emergency care. Medical staffers are on standby at the J-Village training center in the town of Naraha, some 20 km from the plant.

Tepco has said it will improve the work environment.

It has already been criticized for its poor treatment of nuclear workers, most of whom are employees of subcontractors.

After the plant was hit by the March disaster, workers were initially given no radiation meters on the grounds they were washed away by the tsunami.

Tepco improved the situation only after the government nuclear watchdog agency urged the utility to take steps.

But later in March, three workers were irradiated in a contaminated puddle of water while working in the underground level of the reactor 3 building.

Then came a recent revelation that a daily laborer in Osaka who applied to a job as a driver in Miyagi Prefecture ended up as a nuclear worker at the Fukushima plant.

The worker’s death came as the utility continued Saturday work to install a new cooling system at the No. 1 plant, where much of the fuel in the core has melted after being fully exposed.

In a time of both misinformation and too much information, quality journalism is more crucial than ever.
By subscribing, you can help us get the story right.