The operators of the ruined reactors at Fukushima are under fire for claiming that the recent death of one of their reactor cleanup workers from cancer of the blood had “nothing to do with” his work amidst the radioactive ruins of the plant and that they have “no plans” to investigate it further.
Tepco recently announced the contract worker, in his forties and involved in radiation control work at the plant for a week in early August, died suddenly in the middle of the month from acute leukemia, shortly after finishing work at the plant.
Tepco claims that “according to a doctor’s diagnosis, his work had nothing to do with his cause of death” and states that “we have no plans to undertake any further investigation of his death.”
He was said to be exposed to 0.5 millisieverts of radiation during his work at the plant, 10% of the annual limit.
They say they have no idea what he had been doing before coming to work at the plant, and that they found no sign of the disease when they checked his health prior to sending him to work.
Leukemia normally develops over years rather than days, supporting Tepco’s assertions – although this would instead suggest Tepco sent a cancer sufferer in the terminal stages of the disease to work in a nuclear disaster area.
Japanese doctors have noted a much higher long-term incidence of leukemia amongst plant workers than chance would suggest likely.
Tepco has been criticised both before and during the crisis for using ultra short-term contract workers to undertake maintenance work at the plant, rotating them out of the plant as soon as their radiation exposure reaches legal limits.
Some have claimed this allowed them to maintain much laxer radiation safety standards than would have been the case if they were irradiating their own permanent employees.
Supposedly there have been no deaths directly caused by the events at Fukushima, although a number of indirect deaths (suicides by bankrupted farmers and so on) have been recorded, and the sheer amount of radiation released seems likely to at least cause many life-shortening illnesses.