Safety of workers compromised at Fukushima

Questions are being asked on the way the Fukushima plant operator handled the emergency situation and that it failed to protect the workers from radiation.

    There have been a couple of twists to the ongoing story unfolding at the crippled power station at Fukushima in Japan which could heap greater anxiety on the public still trying to come to terms with the earthquake, tsunami and the nuclear crisis.

    The first was an acknowledgement from the operator of the stricken facility that it knowingly sent workers into a hazardous environment without the right information.

    Tokyo Electric Power Company [TEPCO] officials knew there was radioactive water on the ground of a reactor building, but didn't tell workers who were being sent in there to lay cables.

    The workers were wearing inadequate footwear and some of them were exposed to high levels of radiation and hospitalised.

    Mistakes are made in high pressure situations and there's no doubt TEPCO is under enormous pressure to try to bring the situation under control, but what I haven't seen from these officials is, why did they fail to protect their workers? Why didn't they warn them? If basic lapses like this are happening, what other mistakes are being made and what will emerge in the future?

    It's also concerning that this acknowledgement seems to have only emerged after prodding from the government. Which brings me to my second concern.

    The government has been receiving a lot of criticism from citizens affected by the nuclear situation. They have been demanding more information.

    Now the government appears to be trying to deflect some of that heat onto TEPCO. Yukio Edano, the chief cabinet secretary, urged the company to report information with speed and accuracy to avoid triggering distrust from the public and workers at the site.

    Let's hope this was an example of leadership from the government and not just an attempt to shift the blame.

    That game between the key players will certainly come eventually, but with the crisis far from over, it's too early now.


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