Japan’s Nuclear Power Plant Workers, Exposed to Radiation, Hidden from Sight



Kenji Higuchi (樋口健二) is a photographer in Japan, acclaimed for his work of documenting the effects of industrial pollution and the exploitation of nuclear power plant workers.  This documentary film was released by Channel 4 (UK) in 1995.  Cf. Tim Shorrock, “Japan’s Nuclear Nightmare (Part One)” (18 March 2011); Tim Shorrock, “Japan’s Nuclear Nightmare (Part Two): Nuclear Gypsies — The Subcontractors Who Do the Dirty Work” (20 March 2011); “メシ最悪、雑魚寝、被曝 . . . 原発作業員「日当40万円」の過酷労働” (Zakzak, 29 March 2011); “Of roughly 83,000 workers at Japan’s 18 commercial nuclear power plants, 88 percent were contract workers in the year that ended in March 2010, the nuclear agency said.  At the Fukushima Daiichi plant, 89 percent of the 10,303 workers during that period were contractors.  In Japan’s nuclear industry, the elite are operators like Tokyo Electric and the manufacturers that build and help maintain the plants like Toshiba and Hitachi.  But under those companies are contractors, subcontractors and sub-subcontractors — with wages, benefits and protection against radiation dwindling with each step down the ladder. . . .  Some [Fukushima Daiichi emergency] workers are hired from construction sites, and some are local farmers looking for extra income.  Yet others are hired by local gangsters, according to a number of workers who did not want to give their names. . . .  Since the mid-1970s, about 50 former workers have received workers’ compensation after developing leukemia and other forms of cancer.  Health experts say that though many former workers are experiencing health problems that may be a result of their nuclear work, it is often difficult to prove a direct link” (Hiroko Tabuchi, “Japanese Workers Braved Radiation for a Temp Job,” New York Times, 9 April 2011); “被曝基準超えた作業員の雇用継続求める 労使、国に要望” (Asahi Shimbun, 9 April 2011).

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