An industrial safety researcher evaluates the procedures at Japan’s Fukushima nuclear reactor following the 2011 earthquake and tsunami.
In this debut nonfiction book, Yasui draws on a background in occupational safety, including five years overseeing protections for the workers who dealt with the aftermath of the Fukushima nuclear disaster, to evaluate the successes and failures of the Japanese government’s oversight of employee safety. The author also offers recommendations for readers charged with protecting workers in similar high-risk situations. The volume, based on a series of papers, many previously published in industry journals, addresses the immediate response to the catastrophe, the ongoing monitoring of workers’ health and radiation exposure, the impact of the cleanup efforts, and recommendations for responding to future emergencies. Yasui explores many of the problems faced by those responsible for managing worker safety, including equipment shortages, inefficient tracking methods, and the variability of radiation exposure even within small areas. The author acknowledges both problems and solutions without emphasizing individual or organizational fault (“If there had been well-prepared manuals and a sufficient number of proper respiratory masks, the operators could have responded appropriately”). The book’s subject matter is of interest and relevance to a limited number of specialists, and as a result the prose and structure are not designed to appeal to general readers. The writing features a high concentration of both acronyms and technical jargon (“On March 22, 2011, TEPCO restarted internal exposure monitoring using two vehicle-mounted WBCs borrowed from JAEA and located at the Onahama Coal Centre 50 km from the APP”). But the information supplied is thorough, with hard data provided in many cases and detailed notes at the end of each chapter delivering both citations and sources for further examination. The book includes concrete recommendations for mitigating risk to workers involved in similar situations, and Yasui concludes with a suggested study design for evaluating the ongoing health needs of emergency workers, presenting guidance for monitoring the long-term effects of prolonged exposure to significant amounts of radiation. Appendices include a useful, detailed timeline of events following the nuclear emergency and government-issued press releases.
A comprehensive, though specialized, summary of worker safety in response to Fukushima.