FUKUSHIMA - An executive of a subcontractor has admitted he told his workers to put lead covers over their dosimeters to falsify radiation exposure levels while engaging in restoration work at the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.
"I came up with the idea to use covers because the dosimeters' alarm repeatedly sounded" when he first entered the site, said Teruo Sagara, a director at the subcontractor, Build-up, during a press conference Monday at its office in Koriyama, Fukushima Prefecture.
"It was wrong," Sagara, 54, said.
President Takashi Wada, 57, who also attended the conference, said Sagara would be dismissed from his post.
Sagara first entered the plant on Nov. 28 to prepare for the work the company was contracted for. When he went to an embarkment near the No. 1 reactor--one of several locations his employees would work at--Sagara found his dosimeter's alarm sounding at short intervals.
Sagara concluded the location had a high radiation level and he came up with the idea to falsify exposure levels using a lead plate he found at a waste storage site at the plant.
On Nov. 30, Sagara cut the plate to make 12 lead shields--about 10 centimeters by 10 centimeters each--at the plant along with two of his coworkers.
Sagara explained his idea to 10 employees later that day at a hotel in Iwaki, Fukushima Prefecture.
He said he told the employees they should enter the plant with lead covers on the dosimeters.
He made it clear the move was aimed at falsifying exposure readings, saying, "If we're exposed to levels close to the maximum, we won't be able to get future work."
Three of the 10, however, refused to wear dosimeters with lead covers the following morning and were excluded from the day's work.
Sagara and four other employees had dosimeters with lead covers in their pockets while working at the embankment, while others did not as they were working at a different location with relatively lower radiation levels.
However, Sagara found the shields did not lower the radiation readings and he gave up on the scheme and discarded the lead covers at the plant.
"I feel sorry for causing trouble to many people with my selfish decision," Sagara said.
Ministry to probe contractors
The Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry has decided to investigate contractors engaged in restoration work at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant to find out whether they falsified information on the radiation levels their workers were exposed to.
Since five employees of a Fukushima subcontractor were found to have placed lead covers on their dosimeters to mask radiation exposure levels, the ministry will check whether such acts were carried out by other contractors. It plans to investigate the issue next month by analyzing dosimeter data, and labor standards inspectors will conduct on-site inspections.
According to the Industrial Safety and Health Law, business operators engaging in work where employees are exposed to radiation are obliged to monitor their exposure levels.
Nuclear plant workers are usually equipped with dosimeters that record the name of the project, working hours and exposure levels, as well as a glass badge that measures accumulated exposure levels over relatively long terms, such as three months. Electric power companies that hire contractors are supposed to keep the data.
According to the ministry, about 500 contractors were involved in restoration work at the Fukushima plant.