National / Crime & Legal

Three Vietnamese sue Fukushima firm over decontamination work at crippled nuclear facility

JIJI, Kyodo, Staff Report

Three Vietnamese have sued a construction firm for damages, claiming they were exposed to radiation after the company had them engage in decontamination work related to the March 2011 nuclear disaster in Fukushima Prefecture.

The lawsuit was filed with Fukushima District Court’s branch in the city of Koriyama, a labor union supporting the plaintiffs said at a news conference in Tokyo on Wednesday.

The Vietnamese people are demanding that the Koriyama-based firm, Hiwada, pay a total of ¥12 million in compensation to them.

The three came to Japan in July 2015 to learn construction skills under the technical training program for foreign nationals.

But they had to engage in decontamination work mainly in Koriyama for about two years from March 2016, after the triple meltdown at Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc.’s tsunami-stricken Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant.

They had to do piping work for the sewage system in the town of Namie, which had been designated as a no-entry zone at the time.

The three plaintiffs were on the job for about 300 to 420 days. They were not given sufficient education about the risk of radiation exposure based on the Industrial Safety and Health Law, according to the petition.

The company has admitted to having them do the decontamination work.

“We had to do a lot of decontamination work. We were not informed that it was a dangerous job,” one of the three Vietnamese said through a lawyer.

“I’m very worried about my health in the future,” the 36-year-old plaintiff said.

In March 2018, another Vietnamese trainee hired by a construction firm in Morioka, Iwate Prefecture, said at a news conference in Tokyo that he had been misled into conducting decontamination work in Fukushima Prefecture.

A probe by the government last year found that four companies used foreign trainees in radioactive cleanup work related to Fukushima No. 1.

The Justice Ministry and the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare have released statements saying that decontamination work does not fit the purpose of the trainee program.

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