Workers trying to stabilize the devastated Fukushima nuclear power plant are struggling to keep up with the work amid ongoing crises, health problems, poor wages and falling morale, The Guardian reports Wednesday.
Roughly 6,000 workers are currently employed at the plant by the operator TEPCO. However, that number is a fraction of the size of Fukushima employees before the crises—many of whom have left due to radiation exposure limits.
Workers’ pay is falling too, with a 20% pay cut for all employees taken in 2011. And the majority of workers at the plant now come from low-paying contractors and subcontractors.
According to The Guardian, these workers “are suffering from plummeting morale, health problems and anxiety about the future,” with at least another 40 years ahead before the plant might be stabilized. Fukushima workers are currently understaffed and overworked, yet they are expected to carry “the future of Japan” on their shoulders, as Japan’s prime minister Shinzo Abe recently told them.
Jun Shigemura, a lecturer in the psychiatry department at the National Defense Medical College who heads a team of psychologists who counsel Fukushima plant workers told The Guardian he is worried about the 70% of TEPCO workers at Fukushima Daiichi who were also forced to evacuate their homes by the meltdown.
“They were traumatized by the tsunami and the reactor explosions and had no idea how much they had been irradiated,” Shigemura said. “That was the acute effect but now they are suffering from the chronic effects, such as depression, loss of motivation and issues with alcohol.”
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