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Fukushima nuclear plant workers face stigma, threats

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By Malcolm Foster

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“The public’s trust in TEPCO has declined, so we will work to improve that,” said Yuji Ohya,

It hasn't declined, it is non existent.

16 ( +18 / -2 )

They tell therapists they have been harangued by residents displaced in Japan’s nuclear disaster and threatened with signs on their doors telling them to leave. Some of their children have been taunted at school, and prospective landlords have turned them away.

This is downright disgraceful. Perhaps TEPCO should really just revoke lot purchases for companies that mistreat their workers. It would give them a lot more money that they could then pump into workers benefits and salaries (as well as avoid bankruptcy).

These workers have nothing to do with management issues at the plants, and are in fact the only ones willing to do the cleanup. Punishment for discriminating against them should be set as community service, at Fukushima plant and decontamination sites. Maybe then they will start treating them with the respect they deserve.

11 ( +16 / -5 )

“Showing appreciation to the workers is an urgent need. It’s totally lacking,” Shigemura said, adding that he believes stigmatization is a key factor in influencing the workers’ psychological distress.

I don't know about appreciation but at the vet least NO discrimination would be nice.!people always want someone to blame/vent at and the ordinary workers are sadly a convenient conduit. Hope TEPCO is rewarding their skilled workers adequately to keep them doing a good job...

3 ( +3 / -0 )

There was a time when TEPCO was king of the nuclear and power pile. The 4th largest power company in the world, the largest in Asia.

Then along came the nuclear disaster.

TEPCO lost it's crown which has been passed to KEPCO.

There was a time you couldn't get a job at TEPCO unless a family member already worked there. Great job for life with great pay. Now young engineers and other workers are leaving in droves.

A young worker returned home to his new apartment after his shift at the atomic plant to discover a note pinned to his door, telling him he wasn't wanted and should move out. He had hid the fact he worked for TEPCO, but someone still found out.

Children are being refused places at school or hospital treatments.

All this is good reason to close down TEPCO except for dealing with the nuclear disaster zone, and sell it off to other companies.

0 ( +11 / -11 )

They are people who do not deserve the anger. They do what people do, work and feed families. They'd love an easier job inside an air conditioned office filing papers! Check out a book that gives insight into what it is like to work in a nuclear weapons plant. Secrecy, protests, raids, illness. Many of the families of these workers had no idea what "Mom or Dad" did at work! Full Body Burden-Growing Up in the Shadows of Rocky Flats by Dr. Kristen Iversen. http://www.amazon.co.jp/Full-Body-Burden-Growing-Nuclear/dp/030795563X/ref=sr_1_1?s=english-books&ie=UTF8&qid=1344236853&sr=1-1

4 ( +4 / -0 )

Discrimination against disaster workers/victims has a long tradition in Japan. Only increasing education standards in schools can people be brought to understand what these people are going through. To foreigners, this behaviour is akin to "kicking a man when he's down". A sign of true cowardice.

Tepco's attitude is getting more and more revolting. Instead of supporting workers who have real-life problems, they comb their barcode hairstyles in front of shining mirror, oblivious to the world around them:

"Hopefully as that improves, it will boost the workers’ spirits"

Seriously?!? This is truly narcissist arrogance beyond comprehension! Tepco's pathetic arm polishing will help nobody! First thing they need to do is get their own regulations to European levels: Nobody without a valid radiation safety training and a dosimeter visibly attached to chest outside clothes won't be allowed anywhere near their disaster area.

9 ( +10 / -1 )

zichiAug. 06, 2012 - 04:10PM JST

A young worker returned home to his new apartment after his shift at the atomic plant to discover a note pinned to his door, telling him he wasn't wanted and should move out. He had hid the fact he worked for TEPCO, but someone still found out.

Children are being refused places at school or hospital treatments.

Under several laws those are all illegal. The issue is that those that are supposed to enforce the law seem to be busy when those who need protection are made victims for no reason.

All this is good reason to close down TEPCO except for dealing with the nuclear disaster zone, and sell it off to other companies.

Just how will that accomplish anything? It will just make them victims twice. The stigma won't disappear, not until the ignorant folks in the area die off without passing on their hatred. Even if they work for someone else they will still have been TEPCO employees, and likely still be doing the same jobs. On top of that, many would lose their jobs and ability to feed their families, while almost everyone would lose benefits, including medical and retirement ones. May not matter much to the 20-25 year old, but a 60 year old guy who just lost his pension would be left with practically nothing.

3 ( +10 / -7 )

basroil,

Just how will that accomplish anything?

It's not only TEPCO workers in the nuclear disaster zone but all TEPCO workers are having the same expeerience. The wokers would be employed by new companies.

-1 ( +9 / -10 )

People will try all means to show government that they are fed up of nuke reactors, including discriminating against workers. It is not true that people are against TEPCO workers. Rather, they just want the nuke reactors closed and they will do all it takes to realise this. And if one thinks strikes at Noda's residence are the only weapon at citizens' disposal, you have not seen anything yet........

1 ( +4 / -3 )

But still the full time TEPCO staff are receiving good pay, work conditions, and health checks and health care, unlike the thousands of nuclear gypsies working at the atomic plant.

1 ( +10 / -9 )

Rick KisaAug. 06, 2012 - 04:26PM JST

It is not true that people are against TEPCO workers.

No, it is quite possibly true given everything else in Japan. Minority groups and scapegoats have absolutely no protections by the constitution, and therefore this type of behavior is rampant. They have learned to hate people rather than ideas, as it is far more easy to hate when you put a face on something. These people care nothing about nuclear reactors and are just lashing out at innocent people who only have as much responsibility for what happened as their attackers (and sometimes less). They simply care about their own lives and their own money, and want to bring everyone else down to what they (falsely) think is their level.

2 ( +10 / -8 )

" They tell therapists they have been harangued by residents displaced in Japan’s nuclear disaster and threatened with signs on their doors telling them to leave. Some of their children have been taunted at school, and prospective landlords have turned them away. "

Shocking. There seems no limit to sheer stupidity and meanness of some people. The workers deserve respect, not harrassment.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

Shigemura predicts that the rate of post-traumatic stress disorder among Fukushima workers 2-3 years after the disaster will surpass the rate among 9/11 rescue and recovery workers, which a 2007 study in The American Journal of Psychiatry said was 12.4%.

While the rates may be higher, the type and cause are different. In the case of 9/11, most of the disorders were among first responders and primary clean up crew, who dealt with hundreds of lives lost before their eyes, and hundreds of human remains excavated afterwards. The community however, helped them out as best as they could, and even those with PTSD are considered a part of the community and are respected for their efforts, and thus able to better manage the issues. In Fukushima, the biggest part is probably a sense of betrayal. Although not as jarring as 9/11, these folks not only have no support, but are antagonized by the community they are trying to serve. Even though their experiences were not as life shattering, they may end up with far greater side effects from severe depression and suicide to heart failure.

People need to learn to differentiate people from organizations and ideas. Attacking innocent people is not going to help their cause one bit.

5 ( +10 / -5 )

For shame, bullying the workers will not solve anything. In fact it just makes the situation worse. Those plant workers should receive medals for bravery and conduct. They are risking their very lives in doing the job they are doing.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

This also happened with the survivors of the two horrific atomic bombings.

While the media attention is always drawn to the nuclear disaster and the Fukushima plant, lets not forget the other disasters, the earthquake and tsunami. The first responders, the rescue teams, the SDF all had a terrible job trying to rescue victims or recover dead people. Some of these people will have PTSD, and I know what is like, first hand. I have had PTSD since 1992.

The survivors too have many mental problems. I know survivors who feel guilty because they survived.

0 ( +10 / -10 )

On what planet do the people trying to clean up the mess made by TEPCO and the government get harassed while the company that created the disaster gets off Scott free? These people who harass workers at Fukushima ought to take a good, hard look in the mirror and think about what insecurities they possess that make them so selfish and cruel... then they ought to punch themselves in the eye.

-3 ( +5 / -8 )

Still a 3rd world country with their pitchforks... The only people who are responsible are the people in the nuclear village and the TEPCO managers.

-1 ( +3 / -4 )

Fukushima 50

Was made up by the Western press for ratings, there were 750 people that stayed onsite under PM Kan's orders, Tepco wanted to evacuate all but 10 people, there are many articles on this site that say this.

1 ( +5 / -4 )

We should not blame workers for this disaster. They are the people actually working for us in such tough conditions. They know its fatal for them but still they are giving their best. We should motivate them instead of blaming. The actual culprit are Tepco management and Japan government. Potentially they didn't have any plans to handle such crisis.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Some people probably think that the workers are part and parcel of the whole fiasco because they did not become whistleblowers before the disaster. Unfortunately, whistleblowing is so heavily discouraged in the Japanese system, it rarely happens.

The people of Fukushima rightly want to vent their anger. They may want to vent it at the government or at TEPCO's head office, but that is difficult because of the police protection surrounding them.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

This is one of the most shocking articles I've read in a long, long time.

A lot of bad/negative news is ether common or to be expected, but this? - hassling and abuse of the very people working to clean up the mess - is just beyond the pale.

If the TEPCO guys quit en masse, would the locals - especially the ones doing the complaining - be willing to e ter the plant and continue the work??

I very much doubt it.

Shocking.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

Clearly the discrimination and abuse is aimed at all TEPCO workers not just at Fukushima; a close friend of a friend who spent his entire career in TEPCO management has seen his annual bonus - their real pay, beyond the meager base pay, completely disappear, plus small freebies like an annual company calendar etc stop entirely, and people stalk the management to try to catch them spending money at an nice restaurant and so on, to make them feel like hunted scurvy dogs rather than the creme de la creme that they used to be, punishing the hard working victim as if they caused the earthquake and all the ensuing tragedy. Rather, these dedicated TEPCO workers are heros and the scorn heaped upon then is ignorance and disgraceful.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

for a change, I agree with basroil and not zichi this time. What's bad is bad - nuclear power, TEPCO and the incident. What's good is good - recovering from the loss, trying to make the place safer. Just like everyone there, zichi has mixed up the good and bad this time. these people there also need to be educated by the government, media Those workers fully deserve support and encouragement for what they are doing instead of getting the opposite of what they deserve They are being meted out with the opposite.

5 ( +6 / -1 )

Really sad article - but it shows the ugly side of Japanese society. Two years ago if you said you worked for Tepco, people would have sucked air through their teeth and asked if you were interested in marrying their daughter, and boasted about the wonders of Japanese technology and engineering.

To go from that to taking it out on the education and medical needs of the kids is just shameful.

This is Japan's chance to change a lot of things - let's hope they do.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

I returned, to what I call home some 70km from the plant in fukushima, with my wife and 5 kids for a three week holiday in July. Not only are people from Fukushima being discriminated against but now the kids, my kids, have had a tag placed on them and will find it difficult to marry when they get older. I love Japan, but I can't believe the ignorance and quickness in which Japanese change. The bins on the highway rest areas are full of omiyagi from Fukushima. The people in Fukushima are angry at the workers at the plan tbecause they are not given anywhere to vent their anger, What do people expect???? We all need to vent

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

Colby222,My heart goes out to you and your family and the thousands who are suffering the same plight. I too am sickened reading this article but am sad to say, I am not surprised. Reports were bounded about after last years disaster of people being turned away from city offices due to radiation contamination fears, kids from Fukushima being bullied at the new schools they attend.....the list goes on. The ugly,side of Japan. A society where the powers that be can basically do what they want with no accountability and the masses have allowed it to happen. All that anger, hopelessness and loss of control over their own destinys, Id feel like lashing out too. The only difference is that Id recognise that its the fat cats sat in their ivory towers who should be held accountable, not Joe Watanabe in the trenches or his child who goes to the same school. But thats what you get when you have a nation that is taught to suck it up and shut up while the powers that be fiddle the night away. I hope I am proved wrong but I have this terrible thought that its going to get worse.

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

Apologies for my typing. My keyboard is on one.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

On all levels how sad.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

"...offered the workers little praise, unlike the Western media, which during the height of the crisis portrayed the remaining band of workers at the plant as the heroic "Fukushima 50."

What?

All I heard / saw / read in the "Western Media" was references to Tepco's incompetence and asleep-at-the-wheel rendition of the Springfield Nuclear Plant of Homer Simpson.

Western media has been scathing of the outright lies, negligence and corruption at Tepco.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

While discrimination and ostracism is a huge issue and needs to be dealt with, I'm not sure why people are so quick to look the other way on the responsibility these people had as workers before the disaster. Numerous safety issues, ignoring of problems, looking the other way... These folks were cogs in the TEPCO wheel that caused this disaster. I feel for their families but my sympathies lie with the day workers who are being treated like garbage, have zero job security, no family with them... Who are also facing the same issues as these workers. The difference being, these day workers don't have blood in their hands. TEPCO workers on the otherhand, do.

-1 ( +2 / -3 )

This is a classic example of how bullying is part of Japanese culture and will never go away! How can you expect children to stop bullying each other when the adults set such a fine example?

0 ( +1 / -1 )

We're all so quick to judge before we even let these workers tell their side of the story.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

I am sorry for the staff exposed to radiation each day.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

"stigma"

This is deeply ingrained in the Japanese psyche.

"Some of their children have been taunted at school"

Sounds like some kids need to be slapped upside the head.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

tmarieAug. 06, 2012 - 08:22PM JST

While discrimination and ostracism is a huge issue and needs to be dealt with, I'm not sure why people are so quick to look the other way on the responsibility these people had as workers before the disaster.

Most of the staff there has no knowledge of nuclear reactors and ZERO responsibility for the operation of the reactor. Most simply know their small section, be it plumbing, electrical work, cleanup, power management, or other very specific jobs. Your comments are misguided, and ironically the same as the attackers the article mentions.

While some people hold responsibility, they either suffer enough by the weight of the results, or they wouldn't even care about those types of attacks if they happened to them. Regardless though, vigilante "justice" never works, and only serves to make problems all the worse.

1 ( +7 / -6 )

Happens all around the world, people are stupid animals. They do not see that these workers are removing the known threat and are actually much cleaner than any of the people making the threats. The people making the threats have been scared STUPID by the press. The press did this to sell more newspapers and get people to watch their "news" programs.

-2 ( +1 / -3 )

basroil

Most of the staff there has no knowledge of nuclear reactors and ZERO responsibility for the operation of the reactor.

There are no longer any working reactors? Both Hitachi and TEPCO engineers are working on the reactors. Planning to remove the spent fuel from No4 pool. They are also taking measurements on reactors 1-3 and assessing the damage to the reactors.

French and American engineers are working on the reactor cooling systems.

-3 ( +5 / -8 )

zichiAug. 06, 2012 - 11:21PM JST

You know very well that of the hundreds and thousands of people working on the ground there, only a handful actually know the full workings of the reactors. We are ALWAYS talking about those that worked before the accidents, and even then the number of nuclear engineers was tiny compared to those with other specializations.

You like to use comments you are fully aware of being unrelated to what was originally said. If you don't want to discuss something properly, just make an unrelated comment. Don't quote and then talk about something else without even touching on the original statement.

0 ( +5 / -5 )

basroil,

You know very well that of the hundreds and thousands of people working on the ground there, only a handful actually know the full workings of the reactors. We are ALWAYS talking about those that worked before the accidents, and even then the number of nuclear engineers was tiny compared to those with other specializations.

You like to use comments you are fully aware of being unrelated to what was originally said. If you don't want to discuss something properly, just make an unrelated comment. Don't quote and then talk about something else without even touching on the original statement.

On an average day at the nuuclear disaster zone, there are 350-500 TEPCO workers. 2000-3000 nuclear gypsies and other contract workers.

There are the special engineers from Hitachi, General Electric, French firms and other American firms but I don't know the actual numbers.

My point is, there TEPCO nuclear engineers working on the reactors. You stated there were none.

I doubt that any of nuclear gypsies even know what a sievert is?

-3 ( +5 / -8 )

Over the next 50 years, TEPCO will need tens of thousands of workers at the nuclear disaster zone. It will become difficult to recuit new young talent because basically very few actually want to work for TEPCO.

-3 ( +5 / -8 )

There seems to be a side of a triangle missing here.

TEPCO equals a once prestigious company eager Japanese workers couldn't get into without connections; however, it now spawn of Satan for all its pre and post 3/11 shortcomings too numerous to list.

TEPCO employees equal former high-status workers who have now become target practice--any vile, irrational and misplaced thing goes-- for angry citizens. Old as the planet and works well for the human race per se, but is most readily embraced by Japan's deeply-rooted shame-blame culture.

But why is there no mention of the missing link?

JAPANESE citizens once were mindlessly pleased to suck power for themselves, their homes, their workplaces, the goods they wished to purchase from machines and combini 24 hours a day, factories which made goods shipped world wide, and light up their cities to rival small galaxies without thought to the cost. EVERYONE who ever bought a kilowatt minute knew it was nuclear power. Every single citizen is as guilty as the scapegoats on which they vent.
-1 ( +1 / -2 )

I'm pray for their! Welcome live to Russia with your families!

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

what's with the japanese mentality of bashing not the criminals but the victims? i just don't get it...

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Basroil, feel free to defend and look the other way. Like I said, my sympathies aren't with the tepco workers, it is with their families and the poor day manicures who are bring treated like crap.

-1 ( +3 / -4 )

While Iagrree with the comment by tmarie that in the disaster zone it's the nuclear gypsies who get the rough end of the stick, many TEPCO workrs are also victims of the disaster since they lived in Okuma near the plant which is now off limits.

They would be entitled to claim compensation but I wonder if they are since they also work for TEPCO?

-3 ( +3 / -6 )

zichiAug. 07, 2012 - 01:13AM JST

there TEPCO nuclear engineers working on the reactors. You stated there were none.

Where did I say that? I suggest that you reread my statements and then issue a retraction, as it is very impolite to suggest such a thing.

1 ( +7 / -6 )

basroil

MOST OF THE STAFF there has no knowledge of nuclear reactors and ZERO responsibility for the operation of the reactor. Most simply know their small section, be it plumbing, electrical work, cleanup, power management, or other very specific jobs.

You know very well that of the hundreds and thousands of people working on the ground there, ONLY A HANDFUL actually know the full workings of the reactors.

Suggest you read your own comments.

-7 ( +4 / -11 )

Another fine example of the problem Japan has with bullying in its society.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

zichiAug. 07, 2012 - 01:13AM JST

There are the special engineers from Hitachi, General Electric, French firms and other American firms but I don't know the actual numbers.

Find the numbers of ACTUAL engineers who had expert knowledge of the entire plant and were working BEFORE the accident. You will find few, but many with partial knowledge, as was stated. Until you can find a properly sourced number, we can assume most workers have no knowledge of the plant itself, and instead specialized in a certain function, of which most are unrelated to nuclear reactor management.

I again ask you to retract your misleading and potentially off-topic comments.

0 ( +6 / -6 )

basroil,

since you are the one who introduced the point about workers not knowing about the reactors, what is the connection between that and the contents of the above post?

-3 ( +4 / -7 )

@Basroil: People need to learn to differentiate people from organizations and ideas. Attacking innocent people is not going to help their cause one bit.

So true. Yet, for many people, the word TEPCO means everybody (even those remotely ) connected to TEPCO. Unfortunately, looking for scapegoats is part of the human nature and even educated people sometimes do not hesitate to generalize and blame innocent people working for a faulty organization for the mistakes of the said organization.

I hope such articles would appear more often so that awareness of the hardships encountered by those trying to clean the mess caused by somebody else grows.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Shigemura likens the workers’ experience to that of U.S. Vietnam veterans returning home to hostility in the 1960s and early ‘70s.

“They both worked for (the good of) their countries, but they got a backlash,” he said.

Complete tosh! He'll be comparing it to the holocaust next. It's a pity these people are bearing the brunt of public anger, but it's understandable (not necessarily justifiable) given that the people who oversaw the cover-ups and non-compliance are hidden away in Tokyo and behind the high walls of their houses paid for with their fat executive salaries.

Backlashes are bound to happen when you shaft your country good and proper, and then shaft it again by hiking up the electricity prices to pay for your own mistakes.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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