A total of 269 cases linked to the crippled Fukushima nuclear plant work have been deemed as job-related accidents and covered by compensation since the 2011 nuclear disaster, labor ministry officials said Thursday, underscoring the harsh conditions onsite workers still face.
The workers' compensation claims that have been recognized by labor authorities include six cases of workers who developed cancer or leukemia due to radiation exposure, and four others who suffered from overwork-related illnesses, according to the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare officials.
Decommissioning of the Fukushima plant is still under way nearly 10 years after the massive earthquake and tsunami that devastated northeastern Japan triggered meltdowns at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant. To this day, about 4,000 people still work on site every day, with many at risk of radiation exposure.
The compensation claims that have been approved refer to the period since the March 2011 nuclear accident through Oct. 1 this year.
According to the plant operator, Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc., three people died between fiscal 2011 and 2019.
One worker, who wished to remain anonymous, told Kyodo News the pressure of working at a nuclear power plant as opposed to a normal working site is "incomparable."
"I have to deal with so much anxiety and stress as I could never know what may happen inside a nuclear power plant," said the man from Iwaki, Fukushima Prefecture.
According to the worker, he wears two protective layers of clothing and tapes them together so there is no space between them, and also puts on a raincoat.
"I sweat a lot even in winter and I drink a lot of water," he said, adding that several of his colleagues suffered from heat stroke or heat exhaustion while working at the plant.
TEPCO said a total of 98 people suffered from heat-related illnesses between fiscal 2011 and 2019, having had to wear masks and protective gear made of less permeable materials under the sweltering summer heat.
At the site of the Fukushima Daiichi plant, 313 accidents have occurred in the same period of time, including several fatal cases between 2014 and 2015 in which workers fell into a tank, TEPCO said.
Acknowledging that many accidents had occurred, a TEPCO official said, "We will continue to work with our contractors to prevent such incidents from happening."
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