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HOME  > Past issues  > 2019 April 17 - 23  > TEPCO intends to accept foreign workers to work on decommissioning Fukushima Daiichi NPP
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2019 April 17 - 23 [LABOR]

TEPCO intends to accept foreign workers to work on decommissioning Fukushima Daiichi NPP

April 20, 2019

Tokyo Electric Power Company on April 18 announced its plan to use foreign workers for the decommissioning work at the crippled Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant. This has caused concern that language barriers to communication could increase the risk of exposure to occupational accidents and exposure to radiation and raised the question whether human rights of foreign workers will be adequately protected.

TEPCO intends to accept foreign workers on “specified skills” visas which the government began to issue in April. The utility plans to use these workers to work in both high- and low-radiation areas at the Fukushima plant. Evidently, this move to bring in foreign labor is in order to make up for a shortage of workers as the company is having difficulties in attracting workers for jobs with unspecified radiation exposure risks.

The government in April introduced a “specified skills” resident status visa with the aim of accepting more workers from abroad in 14 industries, including construction, nursing care, and agriculture. TEPCO explains that the decommissioning work of the nuclear plant falls under the category of “construction”.

Fukushima University Professor Sakamoto Megumi expressed his concern over the various risks foreign workers would face at the Fukushima Daiichi NPP. He pointed out that as workers in construction sites need to understand technical jargon in instructions while facing occupational hazards, non-fluent Japanese speakers are particularly at risk of accidents and injuries.

Sakamoto stated that all NPP workers should be sufficiently equipped with knowledge about radiation-related risks. He stressed that TEPCO should adequately train foreign workers to be able to protect themselves from radiation exposure, otherwise they will take unnecessary risks without knowing it.

Sakamoto also said that foreign workers who suffer radiation-induced health problems will most likely have trouble in seeking medical or legal advice. Furthermore, he noted that TEPCO should clarify how it will take responsibility when foreign decommissioning workers develop illnesses after returning to their home countries.

Past related article:
> JCP Fujino: New residence status lacks protection of foreign workers’ human rights [March 14, 2019]
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