Archive for the ‘Employment’ Category

What It’s Like for Informal Labour Employed in Nuclear Power Stations in Japan

April 2, 2018

Informal Labour, Local Citizens and the Tokyo Electric Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Crisis: Responses to Neoliberal Disaster Management, ANU, Adam Broinowski, 7 Nov 17,  

Sworn to secrecy,12 after a superficial safety education drill, they are sent into highly contaminated, hot and wet labyrinthine areas.

Irregular workers’ oral contracts with tehaishi are often illegal or dangerous, and are sometimes imposed on workers through threats or use of force.

Over the past 40 years, poor monitoring and record-keeping has meant that many former nuclear workers who develop leukaemia and other illnesses have been denied government compensation due to their lawyers’ inability to prove the etiological link between their disease and employment.

Informal Labour, Local Citizens and the Tokyo Electric Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Crisis: Responses to Neoliberal Disaster Management, ANU, Adam Broinowski, 7 Nov 17,  “…

Conditions for Informal Labour Employed in Nuclear Power Stations  The phenomenon of assembling and recruiting a relatively unskilled labour pool at the cheapest rate possible is typical in nearly all of Japan’s large-scale modern industrial projects in the 20th century. As early as the late 19th century, however, non-criminal homeless men were recruited for such projects, whether forced, coerced or voluntarily from the major day-labourer (hiyatoi rōdōsha 日雇い労働者) sites (yoseba) established in Sanya (Tokyo), Kotobuki (Yokohama), Kamagasaki (Osaka) and Sasashima (Nagoya). In pre–World War II and wartime Japan, yakuza tehaishi (手配師 labour recruiters) operated forced labour camps known as takobeya (たこ部屋 octopus rooms) for Korean and Chinese labourers who had been transported to work mainly in coal mines and on construction sites.6………

The rapid build of nuclear power stations was planned in the 1960s by a consortium of major investment banks, electric utilities and construction companies and/or industry manufacturers (Mitsubishi, Tōshiba, Hitachi, Sumitomo, etc.), and was carried out in the 1970s, with increased momentum in response to the oil crisis of 1974–76. Through an intensive ‘regional development’ program of rural industrialisation from the early 1970s, politically disempowered communities were targeted as potential cheap labour as their environs were designated as sites for nuclear projects by investment capital. In a combination of regulatory capture and economic dependency, utilities moved in to provide employment opportunities to communities while the same communities steadily lost control over their resources and subsistence economies. In the process, they lost political agency as their political representatives often received corporate and state inducements for these projects. As TEPCO owns the electricity distribution system in Fukushima Prefecture, which includes hydroelectric and thermal power stations as well as nuclear, and is a major employer and investor in Fukushima Prefecture,10 it has considerable sway in the political process as well as over electricity bills.

By the early 1980s, irregular workers came to comprise nearly 90 per cent of all nuclear workers.11 As nuclear reactors grow increasingly contaminated and corroded by radiation over time, informal labour became fodder for regular maintenance, cleaning, repairing and/or venting and refuelling of these nuclear reactors to reduce exposures to permanent company employees such as scientists and engineers. As the power station must be halted during the maintenance period, this period equates to a lack of production and profitability and is kept to a bare minimum by the operators, an approach that led to a litany of safety oversights and accidents.

Although provided less training, informal nuclear workers are paid higher over a shorter employment period than regular workers, whose insurance is taken out of their wage. Sworn to secrecy,12 after a superficial safety education drill, they are sent into highly contaminated, hot and wet labyrinthine areas. Their work includes scrubbing contaminated areas, installing shields to reduce exposure for skilled workers, decontaminating and repairing pipes and tanks, welding, transporting contaminated materials and waste, washing contaminated uniforms and tools, removing filters and clearing garbage, inspecting gauges in high-level areas, dispersing chemicals over nuclear waste piles, pouring high-level liquid waste into drums and mopping up waste water. Although radioprotection regulations have been tightened in the last decade, working conditions for irregular workers have not necessarily improved and, without sufficient information about radiation danger, they can still be exposed to over 1 millisievert (mSv) of external radiation within minutes in high concentration areas and accumulate large amounts of internal radiation.13

Since 3.11, invoking the International Commission on Radiological Protection’s (ICRPs) often-used ALARA (as low as reasonably allowable) principle to justify this regulatory contingency, the state also raised nuclear workers’ limits from no more than 50 mSv per year (mSv/y) and 100 mSv/5 years to 250 mSv/y to deal with emergency conditions, and determined that there would be no follow-up health treatment for those exposed to doses below 50 mSv/y, while TEPCO decided to not record radiation levels below 2 mSv/y in the misplaced justification that the effects would be negligible. In December 2011, ‘cold shutdown’ was (erroneously) declared and the workers’ limit was returned to 100 mSv/5 years. It will likely be raised again as the government expedites decommissioning to meet its estimated completion by 2030–2050.14 Although very few regular workers’ cumulative doses exceeded 20 mSv/y in any year prior to 3.11, by June 2015 the official number rose to 6,64215 with doses of irregular nuclear workers often un(der)counted.

In a fast-track 40-year plan to decommission Fukushima Daiichi (i.e. removing the cores and dismantling the plant), as of August 2015 roughly 45,000 irregular workers (‘front-line’ workers, or ‘nuclear gypsies’) had been assembled at the J-Village Iwaki-Naraha soccer stadium before entering the sites. As well as jobs at the power stations, they work on decontamination and construction sites throughout the prefecture, which include those designated for the 2020 Olympics, a new school in Futaba (the town nearest to FDNPS), a large centre for radiation monitoring, a large research and training institute for reactor decommissioning, and a giant sea wall for tsunami prevention (see also Chapter Five). Yakuza-linked labour brokers (tehaishi/ninpu-dashi), eager to profit from the post-3.11 decommissioning budget (conservatively estimated at $150 billion), use social media and oral contracts to recruit these workers from the most vulnerable populations for ‘clean up’ work.16 In this customary cascade of diluted responsibility, their original wage and conditions are skimmed or cut away (pinhane sareta ピンハネされた) by contractors (roughly 733 companies) so that some irregular workers receive as little as 6,000 yen per day and only a very small fraction of the 10,000 yen per day in danger money promised by the Ministry of the Environment (MoE) and TEPCO.17

Irregular workers’ oral contracts with tehaishi are often illegal or dangerous, and are sometimes imposed on workers through threats or use of force.18 In addition, the day labourer may become indebted to tehaishi for housing and/or loans for lifestyle dependencies (i.e. gambling, drugs, prostitution). As products of structural discrimination, itinerant and/or irregular workers who are already socially isolated may find it difficult to build support networks, whether through marriage, family or solid friendships. Obligated within a semi-legal economy and stripped of rights and protections, each worker is pitted against the other, young and old, stronger and weaker, individual and family man, for basic survival.

Over the past 40 years, poor monitoring and record-keeping has meant that many former nuclear workers who develop leukaemia and other illnesses have been denied government compensation due to their lawyers’ inability to prove the etiological link between their disease and employment. For example, the death of Yoshida Masao (58), the Fukushima Daiichi manager who was among the ‘Fukushima 50’ who remained at the plant to manage the nuclear meltdowns in their critical phase and who developed oesophagal cancer in 2013, was not recognised by TEPCO as related to radiation exposure from Fukushima Daiichi as the cancer was deemed to have developed too quickly after the initial accident.

Irregular nuclear workers have commonly relied on permanent employees to monitor, record and calibrate their doses. Denied sufficient information about radiation exposure risks, and preferring not to jeopardise their contracts and provoke physical intimidation if they complain about their conditions, many collude with company officers (who record their accumulated doses) to camouflage and underestimate their dose rates (particularly for internal doses). This allows them to extend their time and contracts at nuclear plants before they are deemed to have reached (or exceeded) the maximum annual dose limit (50 mSv/y).19 When a nuclear worker is diagnosed with abnormalities in a routine check-up, some subcontractors may falsify nuclear workers’ passbooks.20 Despite the long lives of internalised radionuclides, it has been customary either not to measure this properly and/or to simply reset the dose record at the end of each financial year.

While protective clothing and procedures have grown more stringent for nuclear workers, especially after some workers died and fell ill from heat-related causes, irregular workers remain far less protected.22 At Fukushima Daiichi, where crews are overworked and understaffed, irregular workers often commit errors leading to cases of serious injury and large leaks of radioactive materials into the environment. This is further compounded by the lack of understanding or recognition of chronic illnesses in either permanent or irregular nuclear workers. This has sometimes led to poorly explained deaths of nuclear workers.23

In October 2015, a welder in his late 30s and father of three from Kita-Kyushu became the first worker in four years to be awarded workers’ insurance payments (medical costs and loss of income for temporary disability) while three more cases remained undecided. He was diagnosed with acute myelogenous leukaemia after having accumulated 19.8 mSv/y from exposure to a radiation leak and one year’s work at Fukushima Daiichi (Reactors 3 and 4) and the Genkai nuclear plant (Kyushu) (both of which use MOX fuel).24 While compensation was recognised under nuclear workers’ compensation insurance legislation (1976), the Health Ministry maintained that a causal link between illness and employment remains to be scientifically proven. After the delayed report by TEPCO of 1,973 workers exposed to over 100 mSv/y by mid-2013, by August 2015 21,000 of the 45,000 irregular workers had been exposed to over 5 mSv/y and 9,000 workers to over 20 mSv/y.25 TEPCO and the central government would certainly be worried about a spike in compensation claims.

Without a proper health regime, the permanent damage incurred by irregular nuclear workers far outweighs the value of their cheap labour power. With their use as filters as they move to each plant, as nuclear workers grow older and sicker they become less able to commodify their labour and are unlikely to receive proper treatment and/or compensation (due to insufficient data and high radiation safety limits among other things). Although the endless production of labour willing to take on this dangerous work and the devolution of responsibility and ambiguity around radiation health effects are used to justify the continuation of these practices, if workers are knowingly placed in harmful conditions the employer is in breach of a duty of care under the Labour Standards Law. As byproducts of a discriminatory industrial labour system, these irregular nuclear workers and their families, like many elsewhere, are deprived of basic rights to health and well-being. As one labourer stated in relation to Fukushima Daiichi: ‘TEPCO is God. The main contractors are kings, and we are slaves’.26 In short, Fukushima Daiichi clearly illustrates the social reproduction, exploitation and disposability of informal labour, in the state protection of capital, corporations and their assets….http://press-files.anu.edu.au/downloads/press/n2335/html/ch06.xhtml?referer=2335&page=11

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Risky work: dismantling a nuclear reactor

July 24, 2017

Here’s what dismantling a nuclear reactor involves: Robots, radiation, risk  IEA says about 200 nuclear reactors around the world will be shut down over the next quarter century http://www.business-standard.com/article/international/here-s-what-dismantling-a-nuclear-reactor-involves-robots-radiation-risk-117061200298_1.html   Reuters  |  Muelheim-Kaerlich, Germany June 12, 2017 As head of the nuclear reactor, Thomas Volmar spends his days plotting how to tear down his workplace. The best way to do that, he says, is to cut out humans.

About 200 nuclear reactors around the world will be shut down over the next quarter century, mostly in Europe, according to the Energy Agency. That means a lot of work for the half a dozen companies that specialise in the massively complex and dangerous job of dismantling plants.

Those firms — including Areva, Rosatom’s Engineering Services, and Toshiba’s — are increasingly turning away from humans to do this work and instead deploying robots and other new technologies.

That is transforming an industry that until now has mainly relied on electric saws, with the most rapid advances being made in the highly technical area of dismantling a reactor’s core — the super-radioactive heart of the plant where the nuclear reactions take place.

The transformation of the sector is an engineering one, but companies are also looking to the new technology to cut time and costs in a competitive sector with slim margins.

Dismantling a plant can take decades and cost up to 1 billion euros ($1.1 billion), depending on its size and age. The cost of taking apart the plant in will be about 800 million euros, according to sources familiar with the station’s economics.

Some inroads have already been made: a programmable robot arm developed by has reduced the time it takes to dismantle some of the most contaminated components of a plant by 20-30 per cent compared with conventional cutting techniques.

For and rival Westinghouse, reactor dismantling is unlikely to make an impact on the dire financial straits they are mired in at present as it represents just a small part of their businesses, which are dominated by plant-building.

But it nonetheless represents a rare area of revenue growth; the global market for decommissioning services is expected to nearly double to $8.6 billion by 2021, from $4.8 billion last year, according to research firm MarketsandMarkets. Such growth could prove important for the two companies should they weather their current difficulties.

“We’re not talking about the kind of margins is making on its iPhone,” said Thomas Eichhorn, head of Areva’s German dismantling activities. “But it’s a business with a long-term perspective.”

When reactors were built in the 1970s, they were designed to keep radiation contained inside at all costs, with little thought given to those who might be tearing them down more than 40 years later.

First, engineers need to remove the spent nuclear fuel rods stored in reactor buildings — but only after they’ve cooled off. At this took about two years in total. Then peripheral equipment such as turbines need to be removed, a stage has begun and which can take several years.

Finally, the reactor itself needs to be taken apart and the buildings demolished, which takes about a decade. Some of the most highly contaminated components are cocooned in concrete and placed in iron containers that will be buried deep underground at some point.

Robots under water

While the more mundane tasks, including bringing down the plants’ outer walls, are left to construction groups such as Hochtief, it’s the dismantling of the reactor’s core where more advanced skills matter — and where the use of technology has advanced most in recent years.

Enter companies such as Areva, Westinghouse, Nukem Technologies, as well as GNS, owned by Germany’s four operators. They have all begun using robots and software to navigate their way into the reactor core, or pressure vessel.

“The most difficult task is the dismantling of the reactor pressure vessel, where the remaining radioactivity is highest,” said Volmar, who took charge of the RWE-owned plant two years ago. “We leave this to a specialised expert firm.”

The vessel — which can be as high as 13 metres and weigh up to 700 tonnes — is hidden deep inside the containment building that is shaped like a sphere to ensure its 30-centimetre thick steel wall is evenly strained in case of an explosion.

The 2011 Fukushima disaster and the Chernobyl accident of 1986 are imprinted in the world’s consciousness as examples of the catastrophic consequences of the leakage of radioactive material.

France’s recently won the contract to dismantle the pressure vessel internals at Vattenfall’s 806 megawatts (Mw) Brunsbuettel in Germany, which includes an option for the Swedish utility’s 1,402 MW Kruemmel site.

There, the group will for the first time use its new programmable robot arm. It hopes this will help it outstrip rivals in what is the world’s largest dismantling market following Germany’s decision to close all its last nuclear plants by 2022, in response to the Fukushima disaster.

operates under water because the liquid absorbs radiation from the vessel components — reducing the risk of leakage and contamination of the surrounding area. The chamber is flooded before its work begins.

Areva’s German unit invests about 5 per cent of its annual sales, or about 40 million euros, in research and development, including in-house innovation such as  By comparison, the world’s 1,000 largest corporate R&D spenders, on average, spent 4.2 per cent last year, according to PwC.

The robot arm technology helped beat by winning tenders to dismantle pressure vessel internals at EnBW’s Philippsburg 2 and Gundremmingen 2 blocks, industry sources familiar with the matter said.

and both declined to comment. — whose US business filed for bankruptcy in March — did not respond to repeated requests for comment. Time and money

Britain’s OC Robotics has built the LaserSnake2, a flexible 4.5-metre snake arm, which can operate in difficult spaces and uses a laser to increase cutting speeds — thus reducing the risk of atmospheric contamination. It was tested at the Sellafield nuclear site in west Cumbria last year.

This followed France’s Alternative Energies and Atomic Energy Commission (CEA), whose laser-based dismantling technology generates fewer radioactive aerosols — a key problem during cutting — than other technologies.

The complexity of the dismantling process is also giving rise to modelling software that maps out the different levels of radiation on plant parts, making it easier to calculate the most efficient sequence of dismantling – the more contaminated parts are typically dealt with first – and gives clarity over what safety containers will be needed to store various components.

GNS, which is jointly owned by E.ON, RWE, and Vattenfall, is currently helping to dismantle the German Neckarwestheim 1 and Philippsburg 1 reactors, using its software to plan the demolition.

The company also hopes to supply its software services for the dismantling of PreussenElektra’s Isar 1 reactor, which is being tendered, and aims to expand to other European countries.

“Two things matter: time and money,” said Joerg Viermann, head of sales of waste management activities at 

“The less I have to cut, the sooner I will be done and the less I will spend.”

Increased cancer risk for Japanese workers exposed to plutonium

July 24, 2017

Increase in Cancer Risk for Japanese Workers Accidentally Exposed to Plutonium http://allthingsnuclear.org/elyman/cancer-risk-for-japanese-exposed-to-plutonium#.WTxxNdgMNK8.twitter, ED LYMAN, SENIOR SCIENTIST | JUNE 9, 2017, 

 According to news reports, five workers were accidentally exposed to high levels of radiation at the Oarai nuclear research and development center in Tokai-mura, Japan on June 6th. The Japan Atomic Energy Agency, the operator of the facility, reported that five workers inhaled plutonium and americium that was released from a storage container that the workers had opened. The radioactive materials were contained in two plastic bags, but they had apparently ripped.

We wish to express our sympathy for the victims of this accident.

This incident is a reminder of the extremely hazardous nature of these materials, especially when they are inhaled, and illustrates why they require such stringent procedures when they are stored and processed.

According to the earliest reports, it was estimated that one worker had inhaled 22,000 becquerels (Bq) of plutonium-239, and 220 Bq of americium-241. (One becquerel of a radioactive substance undergoes one radioactive decay per second.) The others inhaled between 2,200 and 14,000 Bq of plutonium-239 and quantities of americium-241 similar to that of the first worker.

More recent reports have stated that the amount of plutonium inhaled by the most highly exposed worker is now estimated to be 360,000 Bq, and that the 22,000 Bq measurement in the lungs was made 10 hours after the event occurred. Apparently, the plutonium that remains in the body decreases rapidly during the first hours after exposure, as a fraction of the quantity initially inhaled is expelled through respiration. But there are large uncertainties.

The mass equivalent of 360,000 Bq of Pu-239 is about 150 micrograms. It is commonly heard that plutonium is so radiotoxic that inhaling only one microgram will cause cancer with essentially one hundred percent certainty. This is not far off the mark for certain isotopes of plutonium, like Pu-238, but Pu-239 decays more slowly, so it is less toxic per gram.  The actual level of harm also depends on a number of other factors. Estimating the health impacts of these exposures in the absence of more information is tricky, because those impacts depend on the exact composition of the radioactive materials, their chemical forms, and the sizes of the particles that were inhaled. Smaller particles become more deeply lodged in the lungs and are harder to clear by coughing. And more soluble compounds will dissolve more readily in the bloodstream and be transported from the lungs to other organs, resulting in exposure of more of the body to radiation. However, it is possible to make a rough estimate.

Using Department of Energy data, the inhalation of 360,000 Bq of Pu-239 would result in a whole-body radiation dose to an average adult over a 50-year period between 580 rem and nearly 4300 rem, depending on the solubility of the compounds inhaled. The material was most likely an oxide, which is relatively insoluble, corresponding to the lower bound of the estimate. But without further information on the material form, the best estimate would be around 1800 rem.

What is the health impact of such a dose? For isotopes such as plutonium-239 or americium-241, which emit relatively large, heavy charged particles known as alpha particles, there is a high likelihood that a dose of around 1000 rem will cause a fatal cancer. This is well below the radiation dose that the most highly exposed worker will receive over a 50-year period. This shows how costly a mistake can be when working with plutonium.

The workers are receiving chelation therapy to try to remove some plutonium from their bloodstream. However, the effectiveness of this therapy is limited at best, especially for insoluble forms, like oxides, that tend to be retained in the lungs.

The workers were exposed when they opened up an old storage can that held materials related to production of fuel from fast reactors. The plutonium facilities at Tokai-mura have been used to produce plutonium-uranium mixed-oxide (MOX) fuel for experimental test reactors, including the Joyo fast reactor, as well as the now-shutdown Monju fast reactor. Americium-241 was present as the result of the decay of the isotope plutonium-241.

I had the opportunity to tour some of these facilities about twenty years ago. MOX fuel fabrication at these facilities was primarily done in gloveboxes through manual means, and we were able to stand next to gloveboxes containing MOX pellets. The gloveboxes represented the only barrier between us and the plutonium they contained. In light of the incident this week, that is a sobering memory.

For centuries the dangers of uranium mining have been known

May 18, 2017

Native American uranium miners and the Trump budget, Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists  Robert Alvarez, 30 Mar 17, Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists  “…….The hazards of uranium mining have been known for centuries. As early as 1556, dust in the Ore Mountain (Erzgebirge) mines bordering Germany and what is now the Czech Republic was reported to have “corrosive qualities… it eats away the lungs and implants consumption in the body…” By 1879, researchers found that 75 percent of the miners in the Ore Mountains had died from lung cancer. By 1932, the Ore Mountain miners were receiving compensation for their cancers from the German government. Uranium mining was convincingly linked to lung cancer by dozens of epidemiological and animal studies by the late 1930s.

In 1942, Wilhelm C. Hueper, the founding director of the environmental cancer section of the National Cancer Institute, brought the European studies to light in the United States—concluding that radon gas was responsible for half of the deaths of European miners after 10 to 20 years of exposure. By this time, uranium had become a key element for the making of the first atomic weapons. Hueper’s superiors blocked him from further publication and discussion in this area; they told him that dissemination of such information was “not in the public interest.”

In fact, withholding information about workplace hazards was deeply embedded in the bureaucratic culture of the early nuclear weapons program. In 1994, the Energy Department made a previously secret document, written in the late 1940s, public. It crystallized the long-held rationale for keeping nuclear workers in the dark: “We can see the possibility of a shattering effect on the morale of the employees if they become aware that there was substantial reason to question the standards of safety under which they are working. In the hands of labor unions, the results of this study would add substance to demands for extra-hazardous pay.”

Kee Begay worked in the mines for 29 years and was dying of lung cancer when I first met him. “The mines were poor and not fit for human beings,” he told me. Begay also lost a son to cancer. “He was one of many children that used to play on the uranium piles during those years. We had a lot of uranium piles near our homes—just about 50 or 100 feet away or so. Can you imagine? Kids go out and play on those piles.”

In 1957, the US Public Health Service reported that the average radiation lung dose to Indian miners was 21 times higher than was allowed in the Atomic Energy Commission’s nuclear weapons plants. In 1962, the Public Health Service revealed that radon exposure in the mines was statistically linked to lung cancer among US miners—at a rate comparable to what Heuper had warned about 20 years earlier.

Lung disease associated with radon exposure was “totally avoidable,” former chief health scientist for the AEC Merrill Eisenbud said in 1979. “The Atomic Energy Commission … is uniquely responsible for the death of many men who developed lung cancer as a result of the failure of the mine operators, who must also bear the blame, because they too had the information, and the Government should not have had to club them into ventilating their mines………..”http://thebulletin.org/native-american-uranium-miners-and-trump-budget10657?platform=hootsuite

Confirmed – low dose radiation increases cancer risk- World Health Organisation

February 1, 2017

 http://fukushimawatch.com/2015-11-05-multiple-studies-confirm-exposure-to-low-levels-of-radiation-can-cause-cancer.html The World Health Organization (WHO) has confirmed what Fukushima Watch has been reporting for quite some time now — namely, that exposure to low doses of radiation overtime increases the risk of cancer.

The results of the study, published in the prestigious British Medical Journal (BMI), provide “direct evidence about cancer risks after protracted exposures to low-dose ionizing radiation,” said the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), the cancer agency of the World Health Organization.

The findings demonstrate “a significant association between increasing radiation dose and risk of all solid cancers,” the study’s co-author, Dr. Ausrele Kesminiene, told sources.

“No matter whether people are exposed to protracted low doses or to high and acute doses, the observed association between dose and solid cancer risk is similar per unit of radiation dose,” he added.

Nuclear workers around globe at heightened cancer risk

The study evaluated approximately 300,000 nuclear workers in Britain, France and the United States between 1943 and 2005. The average dose to the colon of workers was 21 mGy, a derived unit of ionizing radiation dose in the International System of Units.

Dose to the colon is often used in radiation studies. It allows the results to be compared to previous radiation studies, like atomic bomb survivors, from which most knowledge about the link between cancer and radiation is founded.

Results of the study showed the risk of death from solid cancer was modest and increased by nearly five percent per 100 mGy. Among all the participants, approximately 1 out of 100 died from cancer which originated from radiation exposure in the workplace. Among participants who were exposed to 5 mGy of radiation dose in the workplace, an estimated 2.4 out of 100 people died from radiation exposure.

The findings of the study add further evidence to the causal connection between solid cancer and exposure to low radiation levels. The average lifespan of the participants in the study was 58 years, an age at which the incidence of many diseases is on the rise.

Since the level of doses received by nuclear workers is comparable to those received by patients repeatedly exposed to CT scans or other radiology procedures, IARC researcher Dr. Isabelle Thierry-Chef said the findings are important not only for the protection of workers in the nuclear industry, but for medical staff and the general population, as well.

“This stresses the importance of striking a balance between the risks and the benefits of such medical imaging procedures,” she added.

Results of study cross verified by meta-analysis   This isn’t the first time exposure to low levels of radiation was shown to have an adverse effect on health. Even the lowest levels of radiation are harmful to life, according to a 2012 meta-analysis published in the Philosophical Society’s journal, Biological Reviews.

The meta-analysis included 46 peer-reviewed studies published in the last 40 years. Both plants and animals were reviewed in the study, with the majority being humans. The researchers found that low levels of background radiation had a significant negative impact on DNA and several levels of health.

What is ironic is that this study was published about a year and a half after the Fukushima disaster. A tsunami bombarded the Fukushima Daiichi power plant, which released a plume of radiation into the environment. The Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO), the company in charge of the site, claims radiation hasn’t had an adverse effect in nearby communities despite overwhelmingly massive evidence to the contrary.

To make matters worse, radiation from the Fukushima disaster is now beginning to bombard the West Coast. Although radiation has been diluted by the sea, it will remain in the environment for decades. And as the results of these studies have shown, continuous exposure to modest amounts of radiation would have a noxious accumulative effect overtime.

The lesson to be learned? Claims that “a little radiation never hurt anyone” should be taken with a grain of salt.

Sources:

IARC.Fr/En

OnlineLibrary.Wiley.com

The legal case for thorium affected nuclear workers

September 13, 2016

Once secret documents helping lawyers argue for sick nuclear workers at South Carolina complex Unlike many lawyers, Bob Warren agreed to represent sick workers at the Savannah River Site in South Carolina. The pay has been low, but Warren has for 13 years handled their cases in hopes of gaining compensation from the federal government. He’s done so, despite battling Parkinson’s disease and financial difficulties.Today, he continues to press their cases from a tiny law office in Black Mountain, N.C.  BY SAMMY FRETWELL sfretwell@thestate.com COLUMBIA, SC , 11 Aug 16, 

Lawyers are using once-classified government documents to argue that potentially thousands of sick nuclear weapons workers and their families should be eligible for federal benefits.

The documents, released late last year, provide evidence that some workers at the Savannah River Site were exposed to thorium after 1972 even though the government said the South Carolina plant no longer had significant quantities of the radioactive material, said Bob Warren, an attorney representing ex-SRS employees.

Warren said the federal records show that SRS had ample amounts of thorium, a metal used in nuclear reactions that can cause cancer. Warren obtained the documents under the Freedom of Information Act from the U.S. Department of Energy after a three-year wait.

“Without this information, we would not be able to go forward,’’ Warren said in an interview with The State. “These documents are pivotal in making the case.’’

In a letter to a government radiation advisory board, Warren asks that more people employed at SRS be compensated for illnesses they contracted while working there.

Warren’s request, to be discussed by the advisory board Wednesday, seeks to expand a federal compensation program by making it easier for people who worked at SRS from 1973-2007 to gain benefits for cancer the site caused.

The federal government has already made it easier for many sick workers employed before 1973 at SRS to receive compensation because of likely exposure to thorium at the site.

Those eligible for benefits could get up to $400,000 each under the federal compensation program. The program, available to sick workers at federal weapons complexes across the country, has been criticized as a bureaucratic maze of rules so tough that many deserving people have been denied benefits. Some ex-workers have died before receiving compensation, according to a McClatchy newspapers investigation last year.

“There is no reason not to expand,’’ Warren’s written comments said, noting that approving his request would make “many more workers and their survivors eligible for benefits from the … program before they die.’’

Warren said if he is successful, several thousand people who worked at SRS from 1973 to 2007 could receive benefits.

SRS is a 310-square mile federal atomic weapons site near Aiken along the Georgia border. It was a cornerstone of the nation’s Cold War nuclear weapons production effort, at times employing more than 10,000 people. Many who worked there were exposed to radiation, and some now say the exposure made them sick.

Federal officials charged with recommending whether to expand the program are expected to challenge Warren’s arguments at Wednesday’s meeting of the Advisory Board on Radiation and Worker Health. But Warren said it’s hard to dispute what he has found in more than 1,300 pages of records that the government released.

The documents, many of which were previously classified, contradict past federal justification for not expanding the compensation program, he said. The records indicate that thorium existed in notable quantities for years at SRS after 1972 – despite government arguments that it did not.

Among the documents are:

▪  Handwritten records from SRS officials showing that more than 8 tons of thorium were stored at the site in 1998.

▪ A 1982 memo from a ranking SRS official showing that thorium was among the radioactive materials the government wanted to discard.

▪  A 1976 inventory report showing about 7 tons of thorium on the site.

In addition, Warren’s comment letter to the advisory board uses the deposition of a top site official to show that the government had no bioassay medical screening program for thorium exposure before 2000.

Thorium is used in the aerospace industry and in nuclear reactions. Breathing thorium dust may cause an increased chance of lung disease as well as lung and pancreatic cancer years after being exposed, according to the federal Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry. Thorium, which is odorless and tasteless, also has been linked to bone cancer, the agency reports.

The 1,300 pages released by the government now “definitely show thorium shipments to, and in some cases from, SRS after 1972,’’ Warren’s letter says. In the past, federal health officials charged with giving the advisory board information have not provided documentation that would have helped the board recommend expanding the program to cover more recent years, he said.

The Department of Energy had no immediate comment on the thorium issue. It could be months before Warren’s request is resolved……….

Under the federal compensation program, employees sickened by numerous types of cancer at SRS and other federal weapons sites must show that the radiation they received was a significant cause of their illnesses. But the government also can declare entire classes of workers as eligible without requiring each worker to document his or her doses. The class designation can occur when individual dosage records are unavailable to workers.

Bioassy records are unavailable for individual workers to show exposure to thorium, Warren said. So Warren argues that all workers from 1973-2007 should be eligible for compensation. In 2011, he was successful in persuading the government to make workers prior to 1973 eligible for compensation because of thorium exposure.

Warren’s petition is part of a 14-year-effort to obtain compensation for people who say they were sickened by radiation at SRS. An attorney in Black Mountain, N.C., Warren is one of the few lawyers who took on SRS compensation cases, which do not pay attorneys well. He plans to retire soon because of health problems but he works with South Carolina lawyers Warren Johnson and Joshua Fester, who will continue the work.

Nationally, the government has paid more than $12 billion to sick ex-nuclear workers and their families, including those from SRS, McClatchy newspapers reported last year. The energy employees compensation program began in 2001. http://www.thestate.com/news/local/article94448307.html

America’s nuclear regulation officials move into comfortable nuclear industry jobs

September 12, 2016
US Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s ‘enforcement’ is as fierce as the comfy chair, Ecologist  Linda Pentz Gunter 2nd August 2016 “…….

Increased risk of leukaemia in Nuclear workers – World Health Organisation

March 20, 2016

Even low doses of radiation increase risk of dying from leukaemia in nuclear workers, says IARC  http://www.iarc.fr/en/media-centre/pr/2015/pdfs/pr235_E.pdf  Lyon, France, 22 June 2015 A study coordinated by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), the specialized cancer agency of the World Health Organization, shows that protracted exposure to low doses of ionizing radiation can cause leukaemia. The study, published today in The Lancet Haematology, shows that the risk of death from leukaemia increases linearly with the radiation dose.

 “To date, this study provides the most precise evaluation of the risk of developing leukaemia linked to the protracted low doses of radiation received by nuclear workers throughout their careers,” says IARC researcher Dr Ausrele Kesminiene, a study co-author. “It shows that the nuclear workers we studied have a small increase in the risk of dying from leukaemia as their exposure to radiation increases.”
 Low-dose exposures are typical of environmental or occupational exposures, such as exposure of nuclear workers at their workplace, but also of medical exposures, such as patients undergoing multiple computed tomography (CT) scans through medical diagnostic procedures. The study Based on the strongest evidence currently available, the International Nuclear Workers Study (INWORKS), a collaboration1 among international partners, evaluated the exposures of more than 300 000 nuclear workers in France, the United Kingdom, and the USA over a period of time between 1943 and 2005. The study assessed the risk of developing certain cancers, such as leukaemia, lymphoma, and multiple myeloma.
The results 
The study results highlight strong evidence for a positive association between exposure to ionizing radiation and risk of death from leukaemia and show that the risk of leukaemia increases linearly with radiation dose. 
The risk associated with the exposure varies with the type of leukaemia; the risk was highest for chronic myeloid leukaemia, and there was no increased risk for chronic lymphocytic leukaemia. 
The study shows little evidence of associations between exposure to ionizing radiation and risk of death from multiple myeloma or lymphoma. “Current standards used for radiation protection remain primarily based on acute high-dose exposures, derived from studies based on atomic bomb survivors in Japan,” says IARC Director Dr Christopher Wild. “This assessment of the carcinogenic impact of low-dose exposures strengthens the evidence on which to base radiation protection measures. These new findings are important when considering radiation exposure in different settings, including use in medical diagnosis.”
Note to the Editors: INWORKS is an international collaboration between research partners including Institut de Radioprotection et de Sûreté Nucléaire, Fontenay-aux-Roses, France; Department of Epidemiology, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, NC, USA; Center for Research in Environmental Epidemiology, Barcelona, Spain; Universitat Pompeu Fabra, Barcelona, Spain; CIBER Epidemiología y Salud Pública, Madrid, Spain; National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, Cincinnati, OH, USA; Public Health England Centre for Radiation, Chemical and Environmental Hazards, Chilton, United Kingdom; and Department of Environmental and Occupational Health, Drexel University School of Public Health, Philadelphia, PA, USA.
For more information, please contact
Véronique Terrasse, Communications Group, at +33 (0)4 72 73 83 66 or terrassev@iarc.fr or Dr Nicolas Gaudin, IARC Communications, at com@iarc.fr
The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) is part of the World Health Organization. Its mission is to coordinate and conduct research on the causes of human cancer, the mechanisms of carcinogenesis, and to develop scientific strategies for cancer control. The Agency is involved in both epidemiological and laboratory research and disseminates scientific information through publications, meetings, courses, and fellowships. If you wish your name to be removed from our press release emailing list, please write to com@iarc.fr.

Study of nuclear industry workers shows that low dose radiation increases cancer risk

October 19, 2015

Radiation Impact Studies: Chernobyl and Fukushima, Dissident Voice,  by Robert Hunziker / September 23rd, 2015

“…….A consortium of researchers coordinated by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) in Lyon, France, examined causes of death in a study of more than 300,000 nuclear-industry workers in France, the United States and the United Kingdom, all of whom wore dosimeter badges.1

The workers received on average just 1.1 millisieverts (mSv) per year above background radiation, which itself is about 2–3 mSv per year from sources such as cosmic rays and radon. The study confirmed that the risk of leukemia does rise proportionately with higher doses, but also showed that this linear relationship is present at extremely low levels of radiation.

The study effectively “scuppers the popular idea that there might be a threshold dose below which radiation is harmless.”

Even so, the significant issue regarding radiation exposure for humans is that it is a “silent destroyer” that takes years and only manifests once damage has occurred; for example, 200 American sailors of the USS Reagan have filed a lawsuit against TEPCO et al because of radiation-related illnesses, like leukemia, only four years after radiation exposure from Fukushima….. http://dissidentvoice.org/2015/09/radiation-impact-studies-chernobyl-and-fukushima/

“Indentured servitude” – unemployed Japanese tricked into Fukushima clean-up work

October 31, 2013

‘Nuclear Slaves’ at Fukushima: Workers have debts paid off, forced to stay as ‘indentured servants’ — Foreign workers may soon be needed at plant, official reveals http://enenews.com/nuclear-slaves-at-fukushima-workers-have-debts-paid-off-forced-to-stay-as-indentured-servants-foreign-workers-may-soon-be-needed-at-plant-reveals-tepco-vp

Voice of Russia, Oct. 27, 2013: “Nuclear slaves” discovered at Fukushima […] An in-depth journalistic investigation uncovered that thousands of unemployed Japanese were tricked into working underpaid and highly dangerous jobs on the site of Fukushima’s nuclear disaster. […] Yakuza act as enforcers who keep the “nuclear slaves” from complaining or leaving their jobs. […] Reuters reports that “labor brokers” […] resort to “buying” laborers by paying off their debts and then forcing them to work in hazardous conditions until their debt to the “labor broker” is paid off. Such “employment schemes” are commonly referred to as “indentured servitude”  and are a form of slavery […] Lake Barrett, a former US nuclear regulator and an advisor to Tepco, told the news agency that existing practices won’t be changed for Fukushima decontamination: “There’s been a century of tradition of big Japanese companies using contractors, and that’s just the way it is in Japan. You’re not going to change that overnight just because you have a new job here, so I think you have to adapt.”

Asahi Oct. 28, 2013: TEPCO President Naomi Hirose […] explained that it is getting difficult for the utility to secure sufficient manpower at the plant and that it was grappling with tasks the company was not familiar with.

AP,, Oct. 28, 2013: Hirose acknowledged that TEPCO is having trouble finding a stable pool of workers at the plant […] TEPCO Vice President Zengo Aizawa said […] that uncertainty remains over the long-term decommissioning process. “We are not sure about our long-term staffing situation during the upcoming process of debris removal, which requires different skills,” Aizawa told a news conference. Asked if the company may have to consider hiring foreign workers, he said TEPCO is open to that idea even though it’s not an immediate option. […] [Shunichi Tanaka, chairman of the NRA] called on Hirose to implement sweeping steps to safeguard workers from high doses of radiation and other troubles […]

UPDATE: Fukushima Worker: I was diagnosed with bladder cancer in 2012, now stomach and intestinal cancers found recently — Each developed independently, not from one spreading — Worked at plant for just 4 months in 2011