Four years after the world’s second-worst nuclear reactor accident, Chernobyl being the first, Fukushima plant worker develops blood cancer also known as leukaemia. It is the first case of cancer related to work at the nuclear reactor.
Japanese authorities confirmed Monday that a worker involved in clean-up operations at the affected site was diagnosed with blood cancer. The Japanese health ministry said that the man would be compensated by the government. According to official reports, the worker is a 41-year-old man from the city of Kitakyushu in Japan.
His exposure to radiation exceeded the safe limit since it reached 19.8 millisieverts. The conservationist group Greenpeace recently reported that the case is at odds with International Atomic Energy Agency’s reports that stated last year that the work at the recovery site posed no ‘discernible’ health risks.
Close to 45,000 workers participated in the clean-up operations at the site since the nuclear disaster. On March 11, 2011, the nuclear plant was heavily damaged by a huge earthquake and a 15-meter tsunami. The tsunami interrupted power supply at the plant, stooping the cooling systems at three reactors thus leading to the nuclear disaster.
Because of high levels of radiation, the disaster received a 7 on the International Nuclear and Radiological Event (INES) Scale, which is the maximum such accident can get. Cleanup operation started five months later.
Ten other people involved in the operations contacted the health ministry claiming that they got sick after the accident. Only three cases are currently investigated.
The Kitakyushu resident’s former employer The Tokyo Electric Power Company (Tepco) declined to commetn on the case. The company said that it hired the man via a subcontractor.
Masao Yoshida, the company’s general manager during the disaster and the man who reportedly prevented a much larger disaster by using seawater to cool off Fukushima reactors, died of esophageal cancer a couple of years ago.
Nevertheless, the company declined to associate Yoshida’s death to the clean up operations. Tepco also said that they weren’t in the position of assessing a worker’s health after filing for compensation. Only a labor standards supervision commission can.
“We offer our sincere sympathy for the cooperating company’s worker,”
a spokesperson for the company added.
Yet, Tepco announced on various occasions that it was making efforts to reduce radiation exposure for other workers at the former nuclear plant.
In the wake of the 2011 nuclear disaster, Japan does not trust nuclear power plants anymore. Since then only two plants are still operational, but authorities plan to build more to reduce the country’s reliance on expensive fossil fuels.
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