Doctor warns Japan nuke workers are at their limit

Workers at Japan`s N-plant suffer from insomnia, dehydration & high blood pressure.

Updated: Apr 20, 2011, 22:39 PM IST

Fukushima: Workers battling the
crisis at Japan`s stricken nuclear plant suffer from insomnia,
show signs of dehydration and high blood pressure and are at
risk of developing depression or heart trouble, a doctor who
met with them said Wednesday.

The crews have been fighting to get the radiation-spewing
Fukushima Dai-ichi plant under control since it was crippled
by the March 11 earthquake and tsunami that devastated
northeastern Japan.

"The conditions at the plant remain harsh,"
epidemiologist Takeshi Tanigawa said. "I
am afraid that if this continues we will see a growing risk of
health problems."

Tanigawa, the Public Health Department chairman at Ehime
University`s medical school, said he met and spoke with 80 of
the workers over four days when he was allowed into another
nearby nuclear plant where many of them take their breaks. He
said he was not able to carry out full physical exams on the
workers before leaving yesterday because of time constraints.

Tokyo Electric Power Co, the plant operator, said 245
workers from the company and affiliated companies were
stationed at the Fukushima Dai-ichi plant today. Soldiers,
firefighters and police officers also were at the site.

The nuclear workers have been toiling around the clock to
stabilise the plant. Tanigawa said they get little rest, no
baths or fresh food and are under the constant threat of
exposure to radiation, which remains so high in many places
that robots are being used to take measurements.

In a telephone interview, Tanigawa said the work
conditions don`t meet the basic rights guaranteed workers by
Japan`s constitution. During their breaks at the Fukushima
Daini plant, they often sleep on the floor of a gymnasium,
"wrapped only in blankets and with no privacy," he said.

Photographs of the gymnasium show workers in white radiation
protection suits sitting on gold metallic mats laid in tight
rows on the floor. Boxes of supplies are stacked nearby.

"Because they sleep so close to each other, snoring is a
big problem," he said. "Normally, that might sound funny, but
in this case it is denying people sleep and that can lead to
bad performance on the job."

Bureau Report