TOKYO Nov 8 The operator of Japan's wrecked
Fukushima nuclear plant will double the pay of contract workers
as part of a revamp of operations at the station, after coming
under criticism for its handling of clean-up efforts.
Hazard pay for the thousands of workers on short-term
contracts will be increased from 10,000 yen ($100) to 20,000 yen
a day, Tokyo Electric Power Co said in a statement on
It will also tighten supervision of contractors and improve
meals and other conditions at the site where three reactors
melted down in March 2011 after an earthquake and tsunami.
A Reuters investigation last month found that workers' pay
was being skimmed, some had been hired under false pretences,
and some contractors had links to organised crime gangs.
Tokyo Electric also faces a shortage of workers for the
clean-up, that will take decades and cost more than $150
The revamp of operations comes as the company prepares to
start removing spent fuel rods from one of four damaged
reactors. The unprecedented operation, which could begin next
week, will mark the beginning of full decommissioning efforts.
The utility has been heavily criticised by Japan's nuclear
regulator over conditions at the site after workers were
contaminated with radiation during often slipshod clean-up
operations along with other mishaps.
"It is extremely important to secure a workforce," the
president of the company, Naomi Hirose, told a news briefing.
"Whether an increase from 10,000 yen to 20,000 yen is adequate
is another matter."
The company didn't give an estimate of the cost of the
The regulator has also told the utility to focus less on
trying to get one of its other nuclear plants, indefinitely shut
down for safety checks, running again at the expense of clean-up
efforts at Fukushima.
The plan released on Friday also lays out improvements to
the management of hundreds of thousands of tonnes of
contaminated water building up, which comes from groundwater
mixing with coolant poured over melted uranium rods.
The utility, known as Tepco, has floundered since the
disaster, struggling to get to grips with it and clear up the
site of the worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl in 1986.
The 2011 earthquake and tsunami knocked out power and
cooling at the plant, leading to the reactor meltdowns along
with explosions that sent a huge plume of radiation into the air
and sea, forcing 160,000 people to evacuate nearby townships.
Tepco has lost $27 billion since the disaster at the plant
on the coast north of Tokyo and faces massive liabilities as it
decommissions the facility, compensates evacuees and pays for
decontamination of an area nearly the size of Connecticut.
After months of denials, Tepco confirmed in July that
contaminated water from the plant was flowing into the
Pacific Ocean. It has also found that 300 tonnes of highly
radioactive water leaked from one of hundreds of quickly built
storage tanks, among numerous other problems.
($1 = 99.0450 yen)
(Reporting by Osamu Tsukimori; Writing by Aaron Sheldrick;
Editing by Robert Birsel)