Workers at Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Plant under huge psychological pressure
Lee Jay Walker
Modern Tokyo Times
The conditions for workers at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant are severe and since March 11 a brave band of workers have been working around the clock in order to prevent a nuclear meltdown and endless radiation leaks. They have managed to prevent a nuclear meltdown but radiation issues and continuing uncertainty is leading to psychological problems.
Therefore, stress related issues are building up and this is endangering the physical and mental state of workers who are based at the nuclear power plant in Fukushima.
While most of northeastern Japan is starting to slowly recover and great emphasis is being put on restructuring and shared support amongst locals, volunteers, the local government, and central government. The same is not happening at the Daiichi nuclear plant because these workers have to rely solely on themselves and fellow co-workers in order to continue daily.
The mental strain must be enormous because radiation is an invisible threat and if embassy officials in Tokyo were gripped by fear, which led to many embassy officials fleeing like “scared rabbits;” then spare a thought for people who have been working around the clock since the crisis began on March 11.
While people in comfortable seats have been rebuking TEPCO for the crisis and “mainly rich kids” demonstrate about nuclear power in major cities. The same people who condemn rarely give a thought to workers who are facing death and who are willing to sacrifice themselves, in order to protect Japanese nationals from a calamity in Fukushima and the surrounding region.
Japanese politicians are no better because petty point scoring is in vogue like usual and while Prime Minister Naoto Kan is trying his level best; the opposition, and fellow members of the Democratic Party of Japan, are busying themselves for engineering another political meltdown.
The workers at the Daiichi nuclear plant in Fukushima do not have the same luxuries and they can’t afford to go around with placards and demanding new change. Nor can they afford to become involved in petty infighting at work.
Instead they have to build a bunker mentality in order to work long hours and in such extreme and dangerous conditions. They knew during the first few weeks that anything was possible and this applies to the nuclear plant going into meltdown or blowing up like the ill-fated Chernobyl plant.
At the same time they are amidst radiation and while being in protective clothing may offer some solace, it does not offer much because it is clear that several workers have been exposed to high doses of radiation.
The long-term impact is also uncertain and with each passing day this will create even more psychological damage. Therefore, not surprisingly a bunker mentality is being used in order to block out so much pressure, stress, and fear.
Takeshi Tanigawa, an Epidemiologist, commented about the huge burden that these workers face. He highlighted dehydration, insomnia, high blood pressure, depression, heart problems, and other important side effects.
It is reported that 245 workers are working at the stricken nuclear plant and firefighters, police officers, and the military are also based in and around the site.
According to Tanigawa the workers do not have access to baths, fresh food, any privacy, and the long hours and work pressure is creating many negative side effects.
External pressure is also building up because many loved ones want the workers to return home. Also, some workers have lost family members and their homes and the siege like mentality must be building up.
Added to this is the fact that other workers do not want to replace them, therefore, it appears that everything depends on them and this is also leading to huge pressure.
One worker stated, in confidence, that “We are shocked by the high level of radiation….I work at the plant just because I want to save my hometown……We are the ones who have worked at the nuclear plant all this time. Who else would take the job now if we don’t?
In the coming weeks the natural temperature will increase and the hot and humid conditions will lead to further problems.
Golden Week may be a time for the majority of people to refresh themselves but for the workers at the stricken nuclear plant they will be battling away and doing their level best in order to salvage the stricken plant.
These brave souls need more support and living conditions need to improve and quickly because their share of the burden is too high.
The psychological factor is severe and the threat of radiation can invade the mind especially when you have no release mechanisms in order to escape.