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The High-Radiation Lives and Risks of Nuclear-Nomad Subcontractors

timothy posted more than 2 years ago | from the stop-that-incessant-ticking dept.

Japan 96

Harperdog writes "Gabrielle Hecht has an interesting piece on the subcontracted workers of the nuclear energy industry, in Japan and elsewhere. These workers face far more exposure to radiation than salaried workers; in Japan, 90% of the nuclear workforce is contracted. This is an eye-opening look at a practice that 'carries exceptional risks and implications. And until these are recognized and documented, complex social and physiological realities will continue to be hidden.' A good read, but I would like to know how the Fukushima 50 are doing."

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A way to alleviate liability by corporations. (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38817381)

If companies contract this work out, rather than have in house workers do it, they are much less responsible for the long term consequences. It simply makes good business sense. You can argue whether or not the contractors fully understand the risks that they are taking and the likely outcomes, but at the end of the day it's a free market system and if they are willing to put their lives and future on the line, then let them do it.

Re:A way to alleviate liability by corporations. (0)

somersault (912633) | more than 2 years ago | (#38817603)

If the contractors aren't being made aware of their cumulative radiation exposure levels and possible risks, then NO. The "free market system" is not a reason to let people into hazardous environments without knowing wtf they're doing.

If they know exactly what they're getting into, then it is hard to argue against letting them do it, but it still feels cheap.

It reminds me of the Foxconn situation where workers were committing suicide just so that their families could get the insurance money. Only this time rather than a nice short death, your family gets to enjoy months/years of watching you suffer. I don't know about you, but I'd rather just be poor than go through that, from either side.

Re:A way to alleviate liability by corporations. (4, Informative)

petermgreen (876956) | more than 2 years ago | (#38817655)

Ferom TFA it seems the workers themselves are deliberately cricumventing the exposure measurements so they can earn more money before they are laid off for hitting their raditation quota.

Re:A way to alleviate liability by corporations. (2)

DigiShaman (671371) | more than 2 years ago | (#38820507)

Philosophically it's their choice. We're not talking about abortion here, but the freedom to risk one's own life and only their own life. The problem is, they become a huge medical liability on the tax payer later in life from the effects of radiation exposure. And that's regardless if they signed a medical weaver forfeiting future healthcare or not. There's just no way to guarantee that radiation is directly responsibly for some or all of the health issues, and society will not necessarily give up on them without first racking up some form of medical debt. Either way you slice it, society pays for their risky behavior.

Re:A way to alleviate liability by corporations. (1)

somersault (912633) | more than 2 years ago | (#38821453)

I liked the article soon after the disaster where the old guy said there were a group of old Japanese people willing to help out in the cleanup. His reasoning was that they were going to die relatively soon anyway (but still strong enough to be helpful), so the exposure wouldn't make be that big a deal. I thought that was a good idea, and kind of admirable.

Re:A way to alleviate liability by corporations. (2)

sjames (1099) | more than 2 years ago | (#38822319)

Of course, that doesn't mean that they had any comprehension of the risks (in a world where the news names a different common thing that will supposedly kill you nightly, if it doesn't make you feel sick NOW, many will discount it as more fear mongering).

Then there's their perception of options. For example, we can't REALLY say that people who jump 20 stories to their death in a building fire knew the risks and chose to do it so it's all OK. Instead, we lay blame for their deaths on whoever cut corners on the sprinkler system such that jumping seemed to be their only option.

If they have been so marginalized and squeezed so terribly financially that they routinely over-expose themselves to radiation just to get some work, we have already left the possibility of ethical and moral blamelessness far behind. If we knowingly allow it to continue, we are committing ourselves to the road to hell.

Re:A way to alleviate liability by corporations. (1)

losfromla (1294594) | more than 2 years ago | (#38823539)

From TFA it seems the workers themselves, driven by desperate financial circumstances, are deliberately circumventing the exposure measurements so they can earn more money before they are cast aside like a used up rubber after hitting their radiation quota.

Re:A way to alleviate liability by corporations. (1)

RockDoctor (15477) | more than 2 years ago | (#38826961)

Well we wouldn't have predicted that, would we? It's not as if sub-contracted radiation workers haven't been circumventing their dosimeters for decades now. In fact, pretty much since the introduction of the dosimeter.

It is an effective tool for alleviating corporate legal responsibility. Which means that it keeps on getting re-invented.

Re:A way to alleviate liability by corporations. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38817789)

But don't worry, The Free Market will totally colonize the galaxy...

Re:A way to alleviate liability by corporations. (1)

Fluffeh (1273756) | more than 2 years ago | (#38817659)

You can argue whether or not the contractors fully understand the risks that they are taking and the likely outcomes, but at the end of the day it's a free market system and if they are willing to put their lives and future on the line, then let them do it.

Contractors understand the risks, they just pretend not to if things later don't work out to be the way they want. The contractors I have dealth with are either perfectly capable and wonderful to work with, or useless - and they pull every single excuse possible to prove how it is not their fault and how they were working exactly as they were supposed to.

it is a free market, let them put their life on the line. If they are there to do the right thing, then their families will have honour for all eternity, if they are there to make a quick buck and and do nothing but screw things up - then theirs is coming to them and the thirty silver coins they are paid will not go as far as they had hoped it would.

Re:A way to alleviate liability by corporations. (1)

Beelzebud (1361137) | more than 2 years ago | (#38818657)

And people wonder why capitalism is getting a bad rap, these days...

Re:A way to alleviate liability by corporations. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38820211)

There's another working system where no individual would ever lie to increase their accumulation of resources?

Re:A way to alleviate liability by corporations. (1)

jimbolauski (882977) | more than 2 years ago | (#38820143)

Radiation work in the US is regulated by the NRC, workers are required to wear a dosimeter that will be analyzed and a report given to the worker annually or however long the dosimeter can collect. All the workers I came in contact with were aware of the risks and the additive nature of the radiation. There is a hard limit that the NRC sets for exposure and once that limit is met the worker is not allowed to come in contact with radioactive materials. Here are the NRC rules pertaining to use of a dosimeter http://www.nrc.gov/reading-rm/doc-collections/cfr/part034/part034-0047.html [slashdot.org] ">www.nrc.gov. Companies are motivated two fold to make sure they are in compliance, first deliberately breaking these rules will result in lose of license and probably jail time for many of the people, secondly this would be a lawyers wet dream to get a class action suit against an evil company that was exposing its employees to radiation.

Re:A way to alleviate liability by corporations. (1)

Mockylock (1087585) | more than 2 years ago | (#38821613)

Yeah... I can pretty much confirm that. Though there are quite a few 'odd-balls' that are strange individuals, who have been doing it for years and don't think it'll hurt them (we've got a few of those where I work)... they all still have to comply to regulations. I think that's the government's CYA as far as things go with lawsuits. Someone has to do it, though.. unfortunately. I work for a department which cleans up after these guys clean up. We put remote monitors in and create reserves out of older nuclear sites. Even with the low level of contact that quite a few of us have, they still have pretty heavy rules when in contact. After it's all said and done, we collect all of the health (and contact level) records to save and be made available for FOIA after redaction. Again.. there are nuts out there who think they're superman and just go on with it... but for the most part, they have a very high bar for safety.

Re:A way to alleviate liability by corporations. (1)

sjames (1099) | more than 2 years ago | (#38822365)

I'm stunned! A case where the U.S. policy towards workers is actually better than some other western nation's!

Re:A way to alleviate liability by corporations. (1)

losfromla (1294594) | more than 2 years ago | (#38823557)

That's only cause Big Coal and Big Oil have much stronger lobbies than little nuclear...

Re:A way to alleviate liability by corporations. (1)

Radworker (227548) | more than 2 years ago | (#38825743)

A couple of things. 1 There are usually two dosimeters issued in the RCA. An electronic self reading dosimeter which is calibrated but not used for anything besides a rough total and a way to let the worker know "what they picked up" and a TLD(thermolumenescant dosimeter) which is used for the official record. The electronic dosimeter is read when you exit the RCA and the tld is read every few months. That exposure becomes part of the worker's permanent record (form IV) . The NRC has rules about exposure per year. There hasn't been a lifetime exposure limit since 1992. The story while being mostly about Japan's current crisis does describe a small group of people in this country. We call them nuclear migrant workers, high rad drifters etc. You will hear jokes like "hide and seek for a grand a week" bandied about the break room during an outage. In the early nineties the people doing the work were highly trained in radiological procedure. I lived and worked this way for many years. It is an interesting sub culture to say the least.

Re:A way to alleviate liability by corporations. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38822465)

It makes good business sense in other ways. Nuclear operators and maintenance crews ARE nomadic but that is not to avoid exposure reporting and resposibility. One of the reasons is the nature of the business and a workforce of qualified people. Power plants have operational periods and maintenance periods scheduled well in advanced and somewhat seasonal (spring and fall when power demand is lower is ideal). Groups of people move around to the plants that are shutdown to do maintenance and other groups move around to operating plants as operators. Operators are not digging deep into maintenance and maintenance guys are not operating the plant so when a plant is shutdown or operating, they need different people there and a lot of them. Having a full complement of both crews onsite all of the time makes no sense. I simplified things a lot but that is the general concept of it.

I got out of the nuclear field over a decade ago because of the nomadic shift work. It was not worth it to me. I left nucelar power and started as a tier 1 IT person, I gave up over 66% of my pay to do that but it was worth it to me. I make more now as a senior network engineer than I was 12 years ago but I could be making a lot more if I stayed in npower. No regrets leaving at all.

are they really not tracked? (5, Informative)

Trepidity (597) | more than 2 years ago | (#38817403)

I was under the impression that in the U.S., at least, radiation dosage was tracked on a lifetime basis via a Nuclear Regulatory Commission database, REIRS, and anyone working at a nuclear facility, even on a contract basis, has to have the numbers from their dosage monitoring submitted to it. I don't think you can get away with laying them off and then someone else rehiring them while pretending they're a new person, because their dosage will get filed under the same social-security number in REIRS.

Re:are they really not tracked? (3, Interesting)

OeLeWaPpErKe (412765) | more than 2 years ago | (#38817725)

The claim is that they falsify the numbers. Not the employer, not the plant, not the government. The worker.

Why ? To make a few more quick bucks. Nuclear worker is one of the few highly paid relatively unskilled jobs available, because you get exposed.

Re:are they really not tracked? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38818105)

I don't how the worker would do that. The dosage reports are read from the TLD supplied by the company, and reported by health physics personnel at the company. Every site I've been to that was the process, across many companies. So I don't know how a worker in he US could fake the numbers.

Re:are they really not tracked? (1)

chihowa (366380) | more than 2 years ago | (#38818675)

They could take off their badges or shield them while they're working. You'd think that would catch someone's attention, though.

Re:are they really not tracked? (1)

fnj (64210) | more than 2 years ago | (#38818813)

Just make a fake badge good enough to pass a quick look, and switch 'em.

Re:are they really not tracked? (1)

treeves (963993) | more than 2 years ago | (#38822371)

When GP said "badge", he was referring to, or meant, TLD (thermoluminescent dosimeter), as GGP said. That isn't something you can make a fake and turn in to get it read. A TLD uses a doped calcium fluoride (to measure gamma and neutron dose) or lithium fluoride (to measure just neutron dose) crystal encapsulated in glass with a heating coil wrapped around it. It accumulates the radiation exposure as energy in the crystal lattice which is released as light when the wire is heated by current heating the crystal. The light given off is integrated and that "area under the curve" gives the radiation exposure since the TLD was last read. We used to do it at the end of every month when I was an Engineering Lab Tech in the Nuclear Navy.
As was suggested, one could keep their TLD shielded or off their person while working in radiation areas in order to falsify the exposure.
A "badge" could mean a film badge, which radiology technicians etc. wear. They measure gamma (x-ray) but not neutron dose, so they are not used by nuclear power workers.

Re:are they really not tracked? (1)

jtara (133429) | more than 2 years ago | (#38820327)

Yes, the U.S. now has mandatory centralized reporting. That hasn't always been the case. When I worked (as a programmer) in Health Physics at San Onofre in 1990-1992, centralized reporting was voluntary. Employees could opt in or out of the national system. If they opted-out, then the plant still tracked dosage, but did not report it to the national database. There was apparently some "back-channel" communication between plants, though, to try to prevent some of the more eggregious cases of jumping.

The temporary workers who move from plant to plant are called "jumpers".

There are regulated exposure limits per period, don't recall exactly, but like hour/day/week/month/year. Any worker that exceeds a limit can't work in an exposed environment for the rest of that period. I don't know what changes there have been since 1990, but at the time, temporay workers were often hired for high-exposure tasks. When they opted-out of the central system and (illegally) went to work at another plant, they "jumped".

Re:are they really not tracked? (1)

budgenator (254554) | more than 2 years ago | (#38822141)

They probably use film badges, so there is one (or more) for the worker, and a control badge that isn't exposed, the dosage is the difference; expose the control badge a little bit and the dosage computed is lower. Also it's my understanding that multiple badges are used to compute the whole body dose and some parts of the body are weighted higher than others. If you were working on a contaminated floor, and wore both your lapel badge and belt badge on your lapel, the computed whole body dose would be lower because your belt badge was farther from the radiation and the lower dosage would counted more toward your whole body dose.

Re:are they really not tracked? (1)

Radworker (227548) | more than 2 years ago | (#38825789)

TLD not film. You will only see a multi badge pack in extremely high radiation fields (say in excess of 20R) where there is a point source to deal with.

Re:are they really not tracked? (1)

CrimsonAvenger (580665) | more than 2 years ago | (#38818709)

The claim is that they falsify the numbers. Not the employer, not the plant, not the government. The worker.

Falsify which numbers? Their SSN? Easily doable, I suppose.

Or were you talking about their dose? Pretty much can't do that, since the dosimeters aren't read by the workers - you turn them in, they get read by a technician elsewhere, the numbers are entered in a database.

Of course, they could just quietly leave their dosimeter outside the work area, but they'll get their asses fired very quickly if discovered. And someone will notice pretty quickly if John Doe consistently gets a lower dosage than the rest of the guys working where he does. And he'll get fired pretty quickly.

Re:are they really not tracked? (1)

jimbolauski (882977) | more than 2 years ago | (#38820215)

The claim is that they falsify the numbers. Not the employer, not the plant, not the government. The worker.

Falsify which numbers? Their SSN? Easily doable, I suppose.

Or were you talking about their dose? Pretty much can't do that, since the dosimeters aren't read by the workers - you turn them in, they get read by a technician elsewhere, the numbers are entered in a database.

Of course, they could just quietly leave their dosimeter outside the work area, but they'll get their asses fired very quickly if discovered. And someone will notice pretty quickly if John Doe consistently gets a lower dosage than the rest of the guys working where he does. And he'll get fired pretty quickly.

Falsifying the SSN may be easy with other jobs but the background check for a nuclear facility is a bit more thorough, the only way this might be possible is if the employment application and NRC paper work are not cross checked.

Re:are they really not tracked? (1)

bzipitidoo (647217) | more than 2 years ago | (#38826375)

You better believe there's some conniving going on. It shouldn't be so easy for workers to falsify information. If it is easier than it ought to be, as seems likely, that's almost certainly because the employer purposely make a hash of the monitoring system, and neglected to fix obvious flaws. Even just being too cheap to do any maintenance can provide plenty of opportunities to cheat as the system slowly breaks down. They wink at the employees after putting on a fine show of concern and safety. To make sure everyone gets the message, they hoke up totally unrelated reasons to fire a few honest ones. No one says anything explicit; the message is all between the lines. The most cunning part is that if the situation is investigated, they can blame it all on cheating employees, and might get away with that.

Re:are they really not tracked? (4, Informative)

Diamonddavej (851495) | more than 2 years ago | (#38820057)

The Japanese have a centralised dosimetry system developed by Chiyoda Technol Corporation, the GD-450 glass badge and FGD-650 reader/central computer server. It's used by the Japanese nuclear industry, hospitals, civilian background monitoring etc. For example, they handed out 230,000 glass badges to civilians last September, so the system can handle large numbers (ave. dose was 0.26 mSv over 3 months). Also, the badges contain an ID printed on the front and hidden inside, to prevent tampering. So it seems the Japanese do have a well organised centralised system to monitor worker doses.

Also, the IAEA released a Fukushima Daiichi status report on 2 November 2011, it contains a table of worker exposures (table 3). The highest doses in September, involved 7 workers who got 20-50 mSv (the ave. dose of 1047 workers was 1.8 mSv). I can't imagine gypsy workers could get substantially higher doses and in much greater numbers (unless they all falsify their glass badges and swim in the spent fuel pools). So I seriously doubt the article's allegations.

See: Fukushima Daiichi Status Report - 2 November 2011 - IAEA

Re:are they really not tracked? (1)

budgenator (254554) | more than 2 years ago | (#38821581)

The point is that when a salaried worker hits the hard limit for the year, he still get paid for the rest of the year, where the contractor hit the the limit his 3 month renewable contract just doesn't get picked up again. I knew a guy that worked in Nuclear Medicine and they wore 3 film badge dosimeters, a ring badge, a lapel badge and a belt badge, predictable the ring badge would be crazy high, the lapel badge would be moderate and the belt badge low; after a while they got suspicious and swapped the lapel badge and the belt badge and predictable the belt badge that they wore on the lapel read low and the lapel badge they wore on their belt read moderate.

s/contracted/subcontracted/ (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38817413)

Having RFTA (yes, I know), I've discovered that the summary is quite misleading. The article claims that 90% of the Japanese nuclear workforce is sub-contractors. Timothy, "sub-contracted" and "contracted" don't mean the same thing.

Translation: (5, Interesting)

thegarbz (1787294) | more than 2 years ago | (#38817473)

Translation: Temporary contract workers do work that the plant workers won't do is riskier.

Let's file that one in the "You don't say!" category. It's like that throughout the entire processing industry. Need to hot tap onto a gas pipeline? Get a contractor. Need to go in a vessel that has an inert atmosphere? Too dangerous, get a contractor.

Industries are full of contracting companies who exist specifically to absorb high business risk and appear "disposable" to the plant. They are after all not the plant's employees. If they die it won't be "us" who has to pay compensation, it'll be "them".

Re:Translation: (1)

HopefulIntern (1759406) | more than 2 years ago | (#38817489)

It is the same as those IT people who contract in war zones, really. High risk = high pay but no benefits or protection from a company.

Re:Translation: (1)

OeLeWaPpErKe (412765) | more than 2 years ago | (#38817785)

You have to keep in mind that it's not "high risk" but rather "perceived high risk". Less people die on the job in Iraq than in manhattan rush hour, with similar numbers of people moving about. (I don't know about this nuclear business though. High time we get a decent human-sized remote control force-feedback android operational. *sigh* if I had 10 million to spend on a startup ...)

Sadly, high pay is also overrated. It's high given the qualifications, but we're talking 50k-75k unless you acquire a rank. But it doesn't require the kinds of qualifications(/expertise) that a job at google requires. Although one should keep in mind that pay is including food and lodging, and you're generally stationed in places where it's very cheap to live, with options to have your family on the base (or on another base, if you're on mission to Iraq or somewhere else). Also : cool toys you won't find anywhere else.

Unless you mean IT contracting for external parties in war zones, with no protection from the US army. But that's madness. Still fatality rate is far under 1%.

Re:Translation: (1)

DerekLyons (302214) | more than 2 years ago | (#38818351)

High time we get a decent human-sized remote control force-feedback android operational. *sigh* if I had 10 million to spend on a startup ...

You'd have roughly an infinitesimal fraction of the money spent to date on solving this yet unsolved problem.

Re:Translation: (1)

OeLeWaPpErKe (412765) | more than 2 years ago | (#38855695)

I've actually got a degree in something similar, and while such attempts exist, they're either military (and we don't know jack shit about them, save that they have most likely not succeeded), startups or academics. As far as I know, only one of the startups got even a million, and they really got somewhere. While academics get "free" labour (as long as it's a tiny headcount), I'm not aware of any effort receiving even 500k. They do get old military robots (and thank God for that, because otherwise they'd be pretty much limited to lego).

The problem, incidentally, is only one of machine learning. We are perfectly capable of making the necessary motors, sensors (well, "acceptable" sensors might be a better term), and in settings like power plants it wouldn't be a problem to be dependant on a power plug. The problem is preventing these robots from collapsing in on themselves while still maintaining maneuverability. Due to the demands on maneuverability this must be done in an "active-stable" system (ie. the system collapses if control fails, like a human fainting. This should be looked at as opposed to control failing in a car : nothing spectacular happens and the system can just be restarted and be immediately expected to operate at peak performance. A human/android collapsing can -and often does- damage itself or even other things (e.g. things it's holding), an android might be heavy and have the potential to damage a lot). This makes reliable 6 9's + control essential before this can be deployed. It seems unlikely, at this point in time, that any reasonably simple static algorithm would ever be able to control a decent robot, and you don't want to miss out on the advantages of AI algorithms anyway (e.g. keep operating with acceptable efficiency while partially defective, like humans with a bruised ankle or arm).

Anyway the problem with a hugely complex body (human body has a 297-dimension movement vector, not counting a lot of muscles that don't seem directly related to locomotion, if counting everything we'd be up into thousands, decent androids get up to 50). The best -static- control algorithms have managed 8 dimensions (although it might be fair to say that multiple robot cooperation implementations have controlled up to 12 dimensions ... But due to those dimensions being 2-by-2 independant, nobody really thinks that's quite the same problem. It's much harder to control one arm with 12 muscles than do something with two arms, 6 muscles each). The best machine learning systems are up to about 20.

There are in-production AI algorithms controlling large amounts of robots with 5 and 6 dimensions per-robot [youtube.com] . (The AI part is necessary to make these robots fail gracefully)

So the problem is mostly algorithmic, and 10 million would go a long way towards solving it. If successfull, it would enable us to have a human-looking android walk around a relatively controlled space (say a factory floor, a data center, ...), carry things around, ... and allow for it's hands to be operated while the algorithm maintains stability.

Re:Translation: (1)

DerekLyons (302214) | more than 2 years ago | (#38856493)

Translation: You don't actually know as much as you think you do about the current state of robotics development, but because you "have a degree in something similar" you believe yourself to be something of an expert.
 
Seriously, you think that a paltry $10 million is all that stands between us and something so widely desired and it's just nobody has bothered to do it? You're delusional.

Re:Translation: (2)

CrimsonAvenger (580665) | more than 2 years ago | (#38818923)

I don't know about this nuclear business though.

At least in the USA, the number of deaths from exposure to radiation is roughly four in the last 50 years. Those three Navy guys killed when they screwed up SL-1 maintenance, and one guy who died at a fuel rod manufacturing plant.

Before that, of course, there were deaths in Los Alamos due to radiation exposure in several accidents post-WW2 and pre-1960. Half a dozen or so.

Manhattan Project deaths are still classified, I think.

So, ten or so in the last 65 years? Sounds safer than driving to the grocery store....

Re:Translation: (1)

icebrain (944107) | more than 2 years ago | (#38819567)

I don't know for sure, but I have a feeling those numbers are for deaths from acute radiation exposure--massive several-hunded rem doses that cause radiation sickness and death in a short time. It would be interesting (if impossible to find out) how many deaths were indirectly related (i.e., cancer caused b y cumulative exposure, etc).

But as you said, it's still safer than going to the grocery store.

Re:Translation: (1)

CrimsonAvenger (580665) | more than 2 years ago | (#38820369)

I don't know for sure, but I have a feeling those numbers are for deaths from acute radiation exposure--massive several-hunded rem doses that cause radiation sickness and death in a short time. It would be interesting (if impossible to find out) how many deaths were indirectly related (i.e., cancer caused b y cumulative exposure, etc).

Three of them were definitely cancer or other long term effects of acute radiation exposure (they died within ten years of exposure, but not immediately). The remainder were the death within minutes/days of exposure sort - as I recall, the guy at the fuel rod plant dropped dead within a couple minutes, the SL-1 guys within seconds (and note that one of them may not have died of cancer - he was also impaled by a fuel rod).

Unfortunately, it's pretty much impossible to pin a cancer death down to cumulative radiation exposure.

I've got cancer. I was exposed, in my lifetime (excluding the CT scans I've gotten since I got cancer) to maybe 10 mrem (sorry, that's the unit the Navy used).

My father-in-law died of cancer. Never exposed to radiation other than what you get from CT scans after you get cancer.

Ditto my mother's father.

My father has cancer (fortunately, in his case it's just skin cancer - he has bits of his skin cut away every once in a while, and otherwise stands to outlive me). Never exposed to radiation.

Even the Chernobyl cases are just guesses based on the assumption that they'd be no more likely to get cancer than anyone else, and are getting cancer a bit more often.

I might also note, having just checked, that there have been ten NFL players who have died as a result of their career choice in the last 65 years.

Given that there are fewer NFL players than nuclear plant workers, looks like working in nuclear power is probably safer than playing football....

Re:Translation: (1)

CrimsonAvenger (580665) | more than 2 years ago | (#38820397)

to maybe 10 mrem

Oops! that was supposed to be REM, not MREM.

Re:Translation: (1)

gstoddart (321705) | more than 2 years ago | (#38821917)

You have to keep in mind that it's not "high risk" but rather "perceived high risk". Less people die on the job in Iraq than in manhattan rush hour

And yet, a friend who actually did IT work in Afghanistan told me about the frequent rocket attacks and people who were killed relatively close to where he was. One guy less than 100 feet away from him -- he said he got to the point that if he heard the sirens, he'd hit the deck even if he was in the latrine; shit washes off, dead doesn't.

Not saying the risk is extraordinarily high, but to hear the stories him and his friends tell of being there, I'm not sure you could pay me enough. Some of these places are still being fired on pretty regularly.

It could also be that Iraq and Afghanistan are very different situations (they likely are), but Kandahar sounded like it would have sucked hugely ... and there was no option to go off the base, that was for the guys with guns and armored vehicles. So it was two years on a military base.

He made great money, but he's pretty sure he'd never do that again.

Re:Translation: (1)

thegarbz (1787294) | more than 2 years ago | (#38837075)

he said he got to the point that if he heard the sirens, he'd hit the deck even if he was in the latrine; shit washes off, dead doesn't.

This is the problem when you look at fatality figures out of context. Work in a plant that processes HF acid. There are times when I've put on fully self contained space suits to do my job. Does the fact no one has died at my plant mean that my job is only "perceived" as high risk? Hell no.

The difference is in the training, protective equipment and the expectation. Go replace all the military in Afghanistan with untrained chaotic idiots that normally are seen driving around our streets and watch the death rate sky rocket when the the shit hits the fan.

Re:Translation: (3, Insightful)

Trepidity (597) | more than 2 years ago | (#38817529)

They're also often smaller companies, because that effectively caps potential liability (or more accurately, shifts it onto the government/population). If a huge company fucks up and causes a $50 billion mess, they might be on the hook for $50 billion, but if a smaller contractor does, they declare bankruptcy, their $500 million in assets get seized, and someone else is responsible for sorting out the remaining $49.5 billion of the mess. Hence all the Superfund sites and state-run compensation programs.

Re:Translation: (2)

Renraku (518261) | more than 2 years ago | (#38818329)

This. It is a fundamental flaw in the way we do business here in the United States, and it should be fixed. I don't think you could fix it easily by just, say, making people that hire contractors responsible for the fuck ups of the contractors though. It would have to be something else, something with real teeth. Perhaps the owners of the company could be sentenced to the rest of their lives making a paltry wage and cleaning up their mess, paid for out of selling off the company's assets. When they run out, they work for free, living in a tent on the property.

The entire idea is to discourage the irresponsibility by making it an awful scenario. We have to live with a superfund site while you get off with as much money as you can stuff into your briefcase? Nope!

Re:Translation: (4, Informative)

CrimsonAvenger (580665) | more than 2 years ago | (#38818991)

If a huge company fucks up and causes a $50 billion mess, they might be on the hook for $50 billion, but if a smaller contractor does, they declare bankruptcy, their $500 million in assets get seized, and someone else is responsible for sorting out the remaining $49.5 billion of the mess.

No. At least not in Louisiana.

Don't know about elsewhere, but down here, your employer is liable for anything that happens at his plant that is work-related. So a contractor (employed by a small company) doing work on one of Entergy's nuclear reactors ten miles south-west of here screws up, causes massive meltdown and total loss of New Orleans makes ENTERGY liable (their plant, their (indirect) employee) for billions and billions.

Re:Translation: (1)

Trepidity (597) | more than 2 years ago | (#38819189)

My understanding is that if a contractor performs work according to spec and something bad happens, the company contracting with them is liable, but if they're negligent in performing the work, then they themselves are liable, and the company that contracted them isn't. Hence some of the lawsuits over the gulf oil spill; if it turns out that the contractors who cemented the well (such as Halliburton, in this case definitely not a small one) did so negligently, then the contractors who did the cementing, not BP, would be liable for the portion of damages judged to be caused by the faulty cementing.

Re:Translation: (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38817665)

This is wrong. If I hire a contractor to do hazardous work, and I do not ensure they are doing things safely, then I can be held responsible under a general duty clause under US law.

Re:Translation: (1)

dintech (998802) | more than 2 years ago | (#38818185)

Translation: Temporary contract workers do work that the plant workers won't do is riskier.

Using the same translator as Zero Wing [wikipedia.org] ? :)

Re:Translation: (1)

CrimsonAvenger (580665) | more than 2 years ago | (#38818757)

Let's file that one in the "You don't say!" category. It's like that throughout the entire processing industry. Need to hot tap onto a gas pipeline? Get a contractor. Need to go in a vessel that has an inert atmosphere? Too dangerous, get a contractor.

Once upon a time, on a tour of New Orleans shortly after I moved down here, the tour guide told us that that practice goes back a very long way. Back in the 18th and 19th century, there were jobs that were considered too hazardous for slaves. So they brought in Irishmen to do the work....

Re:Translation: (1)

treeves (963993) | more than 2 years ago | (#38822401)

Interesting. Was it because the slaves were considered more valuable, or because they were considered less intelligent/competent/skilled?

Re:Translation: (2)

St.Creed (853824) | more than 2 years ago | (#38826715)

Slaves were a big up-front expense. If they dropped dead after 3 days you had a loss. Irishmen were paid per day. If they drop dead after 3 days, you get a new one.

Re:Translation: (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38820381)

Risk absorption is only a side effect, and not the actual point of employing contractors to perform "risky" tasks. The processing/manufacturing industry also employs contractors to do relatively low risk activities, like painting or building scaffolds. It is cost prohibitive to employ a variety of highly skilled laborers in all different disciplines, plus employ the tecnical staff to support those disciplines, plus maintain the equipment. How often will a company, especially a small company, need to perform a hot tap (for example)? It is cheaper to hire the work out to a company that specializes in hot tapping than maintaining an organization of employees with technical and hands-on expertise, plus the equipment.

Re:Translation: (1)

eineerg (2098930) | more than 2 years ago | (#38825969)

Way off topic, but scaffolding is not low risk. Its safe as long as you don't fall, which which takes a lot of skill and confidence (at the heights i routinely work at even dropping a spanner could kill someone), and wearing and correctly using a harness is no guarantee of surviving a fall as the blood in your legs turns toxic due to the harness cutting off circulation. The time this takes to happen varies from person to person but the lower limit is around 15 minutes (some people can last a lot longer).

Remember kids, being in the construction industry is more dangerous than being a cop (at least in New Zealand)

Re:Translation: (1)

jtara (133429) | more than 2 years ago | (#38822805)

It might or might not be riskier. But that has nothing to do with the reason plant workers don't do the work. Once you are "maxed-out" for a period, you can't be in an exposure environment for the rest of the period. That means they have to stick you in a desk job until the next period. There are only so many desk jobs that plant workers can do. They would have to hire a bunch more people and have them play Uno most of the time.

Instead, they hire contractors and pay a premium rate. The contractors do other types of work (or are supposed to do other types of work) once they are maxed-out, which can happen in a day or an hour.

The exposure limits are VERY conservative. Of course, nuclear workers are all susceptible to the potential for unforseen exposure. IMO, if exposure is within lesgislated limits, the risk is no greater than average for the entire population.

Re:Translation: (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38835845)

So,an old friend of mine used to work for his dad who developed a process to remove the water pumps from the "hot" water tanks in B&W nuclear reactors. He could do that because he was on the design team. So his son and a team of "monkeys" worked three months a year (or so) going down into what he called the "Zuni pits". They could go in for, as I recall, about 30 minutes, three times a day. Each trip in took 20+ minutes to get in place, where the pumps were, then they had just enough time to carefully remove a nut or two from the pump feet, or loosen a connector, etc. Then they were back out to hole to cool off for a few hours and then cycle back in for half an hour.
Scarey stuff, but his dad was supervising and brooked no nonsense. Nowadays, working to speed, instead of safety, is probably the rule, and "dad" isn't there to give orders.

50, my guess (1, Informative)

hcs_$reboot (1536101) | more than 2 years ago | (#38817515)

I would like to know how the Fukushima 50 are doing

Fukushima 15 are (still) living a happy life with their family
Fukushima 25 are (still) living, at the hospital

Re:50, my guess (1)

chthon (580889) | more than 2 years ago | (#38817549)

Still 10 to account for, then?

Re:50, my guess (4, Funny)

oobayly (1056050) | more than 2 years ago | (#38817653)

From this we can determine that the half life of the Fukushima 50 is 994 days

Re:50, my guess (2)

OeLeWaPpErKe (412765) | more than 2 years ago | (#38826599)

*ahem*

A total of 11,500 people have been confirmed dead since the quake on March 11. Another 16,400 are still missing and hundreds of thousands more are living in evacuation centres.

(source: wikipedia)

Unless the laws of physics have changed since I last checked ... none of them will even die of cancer at age 120. Chances are something like 1 in 1000.

How big where the doses of those 7 special cases ?

Over 20 workers had been injured by 18 March.[1] 3 workers were exposed and 2 were rushed to hospital having up to 180 mSv, which is less than the maximum 250 mSv that the government is allowing for workers at the plant.[11] Both workers, one in his twenties and one in his thirties, were from Kandenko and were regular workers at Fukushima II nuclear power plant.[9] Another worker was from a contract company of Kandenko.[52]

Presumably at the hospital large doses of iodine would have been immediately administered, followed by prolonged hot showers and fresh clothes, further massively reducing the risk (the risk of carrying radioactive particles along on your skin or clothes or in your stomach, resulting in a long-term concentrated radiation dose). Nobody got blocked or injured in a high radiation area.

This is radiation, so it's a chance game. 1 mS during a plane flight can prove fatal where people are known to have suffered close to 1000 mS in less than a day without any apparent ill effect (that last one is not the usual case though, usually some short-term symptoms set in at 250 mS. At 250 mS they're not fatal, that takes over 1000).

Re:50, my guess (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38817711)

So what about the Fukushima 10? :)

Radiation effects on health (1)

JSBiff (87824) | more than 2 years ago | (#38817787)

I'm no expert, but the explanation I've seen about the health effects of radiation, would indicate the parent can't be right about people being in the hospital. . .

The way I've heard it explained is that there's basically four categories of effects you can get from radiation, based on dosage:

* High or Very high levels - severe radiation poisoning, die within hours or days, maybe a few weeks if you're unlucky - so wouldn't still be in the hospital.

* Moderate levels - something very similar to sunburn, might be in hospital for a short time for treatment, have increased risk of cancer developing, but that will take 5 - 25 years. People in this category would have been out of the hospital in maybe April or May of last year.

* Low levels - No immediate health effects. Increased risk of cancer in 5 - 25 years.

* Very low levels - No health effects, essentially no increased risk of cancer (maybe something like .01 percent increased risk, but so close to zero as to be effectively zero increase in risk of cancer).

None of those categories would still be in the hospital - you either die quickly, or die years later.

Re:Radiation effects on health (4, Interesting)

DerekLyons (302214) | more than 2 years ago | (#38818321)

* High or Very high levels - severe radiation poisoning, die within hours or days, maybe a few weeks if you're unlucky - so wouldn't still be in the hospital.

* Moderate levels - something very similar to sunburn, might be in hospital for a short time for treatment, have increased risk of cancer developing, but that will take 5 - 25 years. People in this category would have been out of the hospital in maybe April or May of last year.

Well, the truth is we don't know much about these ranges. The vast majority of the cases of whole body exposure are either survivors of Hiroshima or Nagasaki, or are among the early clean up workers at Chernobyl. I.E. amounts and types of exposure are for the most part poorly documented, as are subsequent care and outcomes. On top of that, it's a fairly small number as such things go, so it's hard to say clearly where the bottom of the 'Moderate' category is. There's just not enough data.
 
And I haven't adressed the difference between whole body dosages and point dosages like the women exposed to Radium while painting watch dials. Or hospital workers exposed to ongoing low dosages of X-rays over extended periods...
 
Making the problem even more difficult is the fact that the media (and Wikipedia, and Slashdot commentary) seem to treat all radiation more or less the same - when nothing could be further from the truth. Alpha, Beta, Gamma, neutron, X-ray... all ionizing radiation, all with subtly different effects. The same goes for length of exposure, whole body doses received over short periods are going to be different than those received over long periods, even if the absolute exposure is the same.
 
All we really know is Exposure Is Bad, and try to avoid these levels.
 

* Low levels - No immediate health effects. Increased risk of cancer in 5 - 25 years.

* Very low levels - No health effects, essentially no increased risk of cancer (maybe something like .01 percent increased risk, but so close to zero as to be effectively zero increase in risk of cancer).

Here, we see the same problems as above - you're acting as if there are clear bright lines between the categories. There isn't. Most importantly, the boundary between (your) Low and Very Low levels is fuzzy and poorly understood.

Re:Radiation effects on health (1)

CrimsonAvenger (580665) | more than 2 years ago | (#38819045)

All your points are correct.

That said, you didn't actually contradict GP. Whose main point was that there's not much reason to still be in hospital this long after a radiation exposure - by now you're either dead or fine (for certain values of fine) until you contract cancer. Or get run over by a beer truck.

Re:Radiation effects on health (1)

DerekLyons (302214) | more than 2 years ago | (#38819495)

That said, you didn't actually contradict GP. Whose main point was that there's not much reason to still be in hospital this long after a radiation exposure

Umm... No.
 
Like the OP you seem to suffer from the mistaken belief that clear bright lines exist, which means you missed my point entirely. You fail to realize that not only do such clear bright lines not exist, there is not sufficient data to make such categorical statements as "there is no reason to still be in a hospital".
 
Only a fairly small number of people (statistically speaking) have received whole body doses like the Fukishima 50 are likely to have experienced. The vast majority of them are poorly documented (at best, as with the Hiroshima or Nagasaki survivors), or were deliberately denied proper documentation (Chernobyl workers). Or those two groups, precisely none were given anything even approaching modern (circa 2010) medical diagnosis or treatment. (The first group because it didn't exist, the second because (again) they were deliberately denied.)

Re:Radiation effects on health (1)

JSBiff (87824) | more than 2 years ago | (#38822751)

But what you have failed to give is any indication that anyone has ever suffered any medium-term (one month to 1 year) hospitalization due to radiation exposure.

I would say my position is stronger than yours, as I am making an appeal from what is known (even if what is known is limited), as opposed to an appeal to ignorance: "We don't absolutely know that's correct, so let's assume the worst".

Until you can show that people actually do get medium-term lingering health problems from radiation exposure, the most reasonable position is to go with what is known, even if that is limited.

Do you have even a *single* example of someone who has suffered a months-long health problem as a result of radiation exposure?

Also, there's lots of people who get high radiation doses - for medical treatments. I suspect we know a lot more than you admit to, because of all the nuclear medicine in use around the world. How could we not with such a large pool of people?

Re:Radiation effects on health (1)

marbux (761605) | more than 2 years ago | (#38822781)

" Very low levels - No health effects, essentially no increased risk of cancer (maybe something like .01 percent increased risk, but so close to zero as to be effectively zero increase in risk of cancer)."

Sorry, but you've been suckered by a purveyor of disinformation. They claim that low dose "risks" of radiation and other toxins can be scientifically determined. But the state of the art of cancer risk assessment has not changed in relevant regard since the seminal pronouncement in 1979:

"The self-replicating nature of cancer, the multiplicity of causative factors to which individuals can be exposed, the additive and possibly synergistic combination of effects, and the wide range of individual susceptibilities work together in making it currently unreliable to predict a threshold below which human population exposure to a carcinogen has no effect on cancer risk."

Inter-Agency Regulatory Liaison Group Work Group Report on the Scientific Bases for Identification of Potential Carcinogens and Estimation of Risks." Federal Register 44:39869, 39876 (July 6, 1979).

The simple truth is that science is currently unable to tell us the effects of low dose radiation. Risk assessment for carcinogens is a much abused substitute for scientific knowledge that can provide no assurance that its low-dose "risk" (actually projected body count) is accurate. When such "risks" are passed off as established scientific fact, a seriously misleading falsehood is being told.

Re:Radiation effects on health (1)

JSBiff (87824) | more than 2 years ago | (#38859421)

See, the thing is, if low dose radiation posed any significant threat, we'd *know about it*. The only reason we can't give a definitive answer about the health effects of low dose rad is that it's *so small* it's hard to pick out from the noise. If it were substantial, we'd surely know about it, because it would be easy to see.

Re:Radiation effects on health (1)

LordLimecat (1103839) | more than 2 years ago | (#38819531)

Or you could, you know, just look on wikipedia...
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fukushima_50#Radiation [wikipedia.org]

Which indicates that between 250-3000mSv can cause varying symptoms (bone marrow damage, loss of appetite, etc_, with recovery likely even up to 3000mSv. One part of the article claims that only 7 workers received doses over 100mSv. Another part claims that 3 workers received over 180mSv, and that 2 of those went to the hospital.

So in all, we're talking about maybe two of the workers who received slightly worrying doses that may cause slight, recoverable damage to their body. In contrast with hundreds of thousands of displaced and dead japanese from the tsunami. In all honesty, if you ask where Id rather be on the day of the tsunami, on the coast or at fukushima, I think id take my chances of a slight stomach ache at Fukushima.

Contract Nuclear workers and coal miners (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38817563)

Trading workers lives for critical resources is nothing new. Coal miners are/were covered by the Federal Black Lung Benefits program. In other words, "yeah, this job is killing you, so we will pay you and your family off so you will continue to work."

"The Black Lung Benefits Program provides:

monthly payments and medical treatment benefits to coal miners totally disabled from pneumoconiosis (black lung) arising from their employment in or around the nation's coal mines;

monthly payments to eligible surviving dependents."

http://www.sogc.org/guidelines/documents/gui256CPG1104E.pdf

Re:Contract Nuclear workers and coal miners (2)

iggymanz (596061) | more than 2 years ago | (#38818701)

nonsense, the nuclear industry does not permit dose anywhere near that which causes detectable harm. The only type of "nuclear worker" at greater risk for cancer is not at power plant, but miners, enrichment and weapons assembly plant workers.

"Nuclear Ginza" (4, Informative)

Sparkles010 (2029794) | more than 2 years ago | (#38817597)

The BBC produced an excellent and troubling documentary about Japan's “contracted” labour within the nuclear industry. It also covers exposure to radiation in general in across the workforce. Search for "Nuclear Ginza"

How is this complex? (2)

rsilvergun (571051) | more than 2 years ago | (#38817805)

they're taking advantage of the poor and uneducated people. This isn't a complex situation. Nobody cares. They're disposable.

wrong - and they probably make more money than you (2)

iggymanz (596061) | more than 2 years ago | (#38818543)

These are trained and skills construction tradespeople. I was a scheduler at nuke plant, the contract workers made $50 to $120 an hour. Why, you ask? ask yourself, for example, what kind of "pipefitter" works with 16" diameter stainless pipe, in a rad area. A very well trained expensive one, that's who.

Re:wrong - and they probably make more money than (1)

icebrain (944107) | more than 2 years ago | (#38819593)

These are trained and skills construction tradespeople. I was a scheduler at nuke plant, the contract workers made $50 to $120 an hour. Why, you ask? ask yourself, for example, what kind of "pipefitter" works with 16" diameter stainless pipe, in a rad area. A very well trained expensive one, that's who.

Yep. My wife does payroll for a company that does work on reactors. Those guys make very good money; hourly rates of $30+, plus per diem and time-and-a-half/double-time as appropriate. The "poor, uneducated" workers GP was referring to easily make twice as much or more than I make as an experienced engineer.

OMG PONIES!!!! (1)

mdsolar (1045926) | more than 2 years ago | (#38818227)

A nuclear story mdsolar did not submit. At least it will put nuclear power in a positive light. We all know it needs that now since the SOTU did not even mention nuclear.....

Re:OMG PONIES!!!! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38818909)

I was kind of surprised, because at the end of the article the author kind of trailed off into generalities without explaining anything. It was like she was ignoring the negative health effects of any other kind of power while specifically focusing on Nuclear. She appeared to be very biased.

This is definitely an article you would have submitted, given the opportunity.

Whoosh.... (1)

mdsolar (1045926) | more than 2 years ago | (#38819297)

It is very hard for anyone to submit a nuclear power story that is both positive and which does not reek of BS. Thorium anyone?

Similar treatment of Turkish laborers in Germany (2)

BartholomewBernsteyn (1720348) | more than 2 years ago | (#38818235)

Günter Wallraff, a investigative journalist, uncovered turkish laborers were 'used' for a similar purpose in German nuclear plants in the 80ies:

Disguised as Ali, Wallraff took on jobs as laborer in construction firms, on farms, janitorial service, and even as a day laborer in a nuclear power plant. In the publication of his 2-year adventure as Turk in Germany, LOWEST OF THE LOW, Guenther Walraff later revealed that the Turkish workers at the power plant were not even provided the same amount of protective clothing at the nuclear power plant as were the German employees at the same plant.

from http://the-teacher.blogspot.com/2009/10/guenther-wallraff-returnsfrom-way-down.html [blogspot.com]

His summary is dead on (roughly translated from http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ganz_unten#Inhalt [wikipedia.org] ):

My experiences surpassed my expectations. In a negative way. I have encountered [working] conditions right in the heart of the Federal Republic of Germany, that are usually described in historical accounts of the 19. century.

'Hidden complex social and physiological realities?' I think 'exploitation' and the strive for 'profits' sums it up nicely.

A Necessary Method (2)

ppentz123 (2515298) | more than 2 years ago | (#38818367)

I was in the nuclear field in the Navy many years ago, and if one of us (highly trained, expensively trained, hard to hire otherwise, etc) received too much exposure, we became normal enlisted men, of no use to the nuclear area. So when any task with high radiation exposure, 'normals' were assigned. The assumption was that these men would never get this expose again. Really, there is no other way.

Here's how the Scam works. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38818611)

Big Nuclear Company wants a workforce, doesn't want to pay for

A: Mistakes (oops George dropped the U235 on his foot again, now he's got his dosage and we've got a potential lawsuit)
B: Regulatory Costs.
C: Massive Health insurance Costs.
D: Etc, Etc.

So they hire their Cousin to start up a smaller company that can easily

A: Hire cheap (Possibly Illegal) Labor.
B: Pay them Peanuts.
C: Play games complying with regulators (We couldn't have known these radiation badges weren't ABC-123 Certified, Honest! We're just a small 'merican company!).
D: Play games complying with labor laws.
E: Buy the cheapest insurance possible.
F: Go bankrupt when A-E inevitbly implode.
G: Start up a brand spanking new company and do the same thing over again.

That's how outsourcing has worked since forever; if you want an IT workforce you can dump non-exempt work on and get lots of free overtime, then outsourcing is your best friend because you can yell at the outsourcing company (I'm not paying Overtime for these people, they don't Need overtime to do their jobs you said so yourself in X E-mail. And I don't care if the servers are 6 years old and the networking hit has an 8 year uptime, your guys are supposed to be good! etc and such insanity) so the outsourcer then yells at their staff and starts doing all kinds of illegal things (like forcing employee's to fill out a timecard sheet instead of punching in/out and requiring managerial approval for any OT, which in turn leads to employee's who get fed up, start searching for new work, documenting the work they are currently doing in preperation for a DOL Claim so when they jump ship they leave the company with a nice lawsuit).

If you want get around labor laws and protect yourself from criminal liability, outsourcing is your friend too. Used to work at a place with 400 illegals and no idea how to get them all deported; the HR lady there worked as a 1-man company named "3-G's management".

Inevitibly when outsorcing is used that way it leads to poor work and shoves the costs under the rug while inevitbly enriching people at the top. The end result is management gets in the habit of expecting things to be that way and they continue to cost shift until something breaks, badly.

We need a law; if someone works for you > X months, >Xhrs/week, from an outsourcer on W4 for the outsourcer, you have to hire them on W4.

Also keep in mind, for those who are contracting; if you're taking risks on a daily basis and are underpaid in the market, get yourself and your fellow employee's to take notes. One of the most effective means of fighting such a thing is to file a class action lawsuit. Companies have no excuse to not know what labor costs, so if you're badly underpaid and treated poorly either the outsourcer gets hit with a lawsuit and you get paid, or the outsourcer goes under and your class action is against the company who hired them. Corrupt Robber-Barron Management HATES when that happens because it's that kind of thing that gets them fired.

bullshit implications in article - not global (2)

iggymanz (596061) | more than 2 years ago | (#38818621)

In the USA, In the 8 months or so prior to a refueling outage, through the first couple weeks of an outage, a huge amount of "construction" work is undertaken at a plant involving maintenance, inspections and repairs. A plant that has a couple hundred full time employees will bring on hundreds of contractors, sometimes a thousand or so total. These contractors make their very good living going from plant to plant for pre-outage and outage work. They make way more money than the average IT worker, I can tell you 7-10 years ago it was $50 to $120 an hour, and during the actual outage there would be 10 or 12 hour days for the first couple weeks, that's time and a half and usually gets to double time overtime per week. Those skilled tradesmen made serious coin. The plant issues dose meters and film badges and monitors the rad exposure of all workers, and *already knows* the dose for each area and type of work, there is no faking of exposure nor even possibility of doing so. The federal NRC has an office on site to oversee work, dose, compliance.

Re:bullshit implications in article - not global (1)

couchslug (175151) | more than 2 years ago | (#38819709)

Skilled trades doing outage work can make serious bank!

Fortunately the trades are despised by the US education system so the shortage of tradespeople (women can weld boilers and pipe too!) keeps wages high.

Just a quote (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38818639)

Quote from Admiral Hyman G. Rickover, U.S. Navy, (27 January 1900 – 8 July 1986) was known as the "Father of the Nuclear Navy".

I'll be philosophical. Until about two billion years ago, it was impossible to have any life on earth; that is, there was so much radiation on earth you couldn't have any life — fish or anything. Gradually, about two billion years ago, the amount of radiation on this planet—and probably in the entire system—reduced and made it possible for some form of life to begin... Now when we go back to using nuclear power, we are creating something which nature tried to destroy to make life possible... Every time you produce radiation, you produce something that has a certain half-life, in some cases for billions of years. I think the human race is going to wreck itself, and it is important that we get control of this horrible force and try to eliminate it... I do not believe that nuclear power is worth it if it creates radiation. Then you might ask me why do I have nuclear powered ships. That is a necessary evil. I would sink them all. Have I given you an answer to your question?

Re:Just a quote (1)

fnj (64210) | more than 2 years ago | (#38818883)

Verifiable reference or it's not a quote.

Re:Just a quote - source (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38819079)

On the hazards of nuclear power. Testimony to Congress (28 January 1982); published in Economics of Defense Policy: Hearing before the Joint Economic Committee, Congress of the United States, 97th Cong., 2nd sess., Pt. 1 (1982)

http://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Hyman_G._Rickover

Re:Just a quote - source (1)

Kagetsuki (1620613) | more than 2 years ago | (#38819209)

And it shows up if you search for it in google... the first hit for me is "wikiquote" even! fnj is a lazy troll.

Overreaction (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38819537)

These "throwaway" workers hired on contracts are not part of some evil plot to overexpose workers at the expense of more important people. This practice is meant more or less as a method of dose averaging to avoid high dose levels being accumulated by single workers. The work is contracted out since most plants cannot justify a full fledged maintenance division, including equipment, maintenance and other factors and must contract that work out to specialized people. Moreover, a plant will likely shutdown once every few years to do this maintenance works so having full-time people doing that work is not a good idea. However, if you are a contractor you can be constantly working since at least one plant will be down at any given time where you can apply your services. In short, given the situation it just makes sense for the system to be that way.

As for the dangers or risk? These are well communicated and generally well understood. Plants are required by various international committees to offer rad training before any entry to a plant where risks, and exposures limitation practices are discussed in details. Workers will tend to willingly pretend their dose is lower in order to get more money, and this has more to do with greed than it does with exploitation. The salary of the workers can be well over 100$/hr and stopping that work because of your dose limit is something some workers just don't want to do.

Finally, specialized workers are in short supply for the nuclear industry so whenever a task can be done by unskilled labor (usually paid ~20-40$/hr, plus paid training and living expenses), it is. This does not stem from exploitation, simply from smart work planning and increased worker safety. These rules are also overseen by the NRC or other national regulatory bodies at all times to ensure compliance.

Radiation Dosimetry in Japan (2)

Diamonddavej (851495) | more than 2 years ago | (#38819767)

The IAEA Status Report 2 November 2011 contains a table of worker exposures. In March 2011, 98 workers (out of 3742) received more than 100 mSv. But that was related to the initial disaster. By September 2011, 7 workers received between 20-50 mSv, the other 1039 workers received far less. The average dose to workers in September was only 1.80 mSv (people in Denver get 12 mSv a year).

Even if there are "hidden" unmeasured gypsy workers, their doses could not be highly in excess of permanent salaried workers, unless they go swimming the spent fuel pools. The radiation levels at Fukushima Daiichi is now far lower then it was in March, so it's very hard to accumulate high doses unless you enter the reactor buildings. It's likely those few who enter the reactors are the trained staff conducting surveys and they well monitored.

The Japanese introduced the GD-450 (glass badge) radiation dosimeter about 10 years ago, it's manufactured by Chiyoda Technol Corporation and is used throughout Japan's nuclear industry and hospitals etc. Dosimetry measurements are, from what I read, uploaded to a central computer (FGD-650 reader and server computer system). The badges contain the users ID printed on two stickers, one on the front and another on metal frame hidden inside the badge, presumably to prevent tampering.

They handed out 230,000 glass badges to civilians in Fukushima Provence last September, so clearly the centralised system can handle large numbers. For example, 36,767 glass badges handed out in Fukushima City revealed an average dose of 0.26 mSv over 3 months. I'm pretty sure this survey is run by the Japanese Ministry of Health, it would be easy to share the worker data if it's not already.

Refs:
The Large Scale Personal Monitoring Service Using The Latest Personal Monitor GLASS BADGE Norimichi Juto
IAEA Fukushima Daiichi Status Report 2 November 2011 (see table 3).

Re:Radiation Dosimetry in Japan (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38846565)

You are wrong. Denver is 6mSv/year. http://www.health.com/health/article/0,,20410979,00.html

Re:Radiation Dosimetry in Japan (1)

Diamonddavej (851495) | more than 2 years ago | (#38861125)

Table 7: Background Radiation in Denver: Average Annual Dose Equivalent of Ionizing Radiation and Risk

Radiation Exposure in Denver:
Radon 10.4 mSv/yr
Cosmic 0.50 mSv/yr
Terrestrial 0.46 mSv/yr
Internal 0.39 mSv/yr
sub-total 11.8 mSv/yr

References:
Committee on the Biological Effects of Ionizing Radiation (BEIR V), National Research Council 1990. Health Effects of Exposure to Low Levels of Ionizing Radiation:BEIR V, Washington, D.C.: The National Academies Press, 436p.
Sinclair, W.K., Adelstein, S.J., Carter, M.W., Harley, J.H. & Moeller, D.W. 1987. Report No. 093 - Ionizing Radiation Exposure of the Population of United States, Bethesda, Maryland: National Council on Radiation Protection & Measurements, 85p.

Stop picking on nuclear (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38822515)

It's SAFE!!!!! For God's sake, it's SAAAAFE!!!!!!(......sobbing, tears.......)

You know... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38824787)

"High" is relative. The "Fukushima 50" is something the foreign media made up, but the number of people who have been exposed to over 100msv is maybe around 30. Contractors, subsidiaries, or otherwise, all of the companies have guidelines of somewhere between 80-200 msv in a short time frame, even during emergencies, before workers get phased out.

Is that"high"? Well the normal guidelines are 100msv per year in case of emergencies, 250msv in case of saving lives, and 20msv otherwise. Most people working at nuclear power plants don't get even close to the 20. (i.e. they don't get any more than background radiation). In that context, it's high.

On the other hand, it takes 250msv in a short time to notice symptoms, and more than 1000 to cause serious health effects which one might not recover from. Given that a giant earthquake destroyed all the buildings in the area, and then a giant wave from the ocean destroyed the rest (including damage to the reactor buildings), a few hundred people getting 100 or 200 msv of radiation is nothing.

With that level of radiation, honestly, none of them are even likely to die of cancer 20 years from now (any more than they would have been). For the peopel who were from the Fukushima area, they are lucky they weren't crushed or swept away by the earthquake and flood.

I know that the news thinks anything with the word "Nuclear" is dramatic, but there haven't been any fatalities from the power plants, while there have been tens of thousands due to the quake and tsunami. Let's put the coverage where it belongs.

A Fist Full of Yen (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38825595)

The Japan Nuclear Industry and Government Bodies know the drill.

Noda enjoys.

Many die.

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