Hitachi workers continue to face hot spots atFukushima plant
2011/10/05PrintShare ArticleHideo Kawai of Hitachi-GE Nuclear Energy Ltd. speaks to workers on the morning of Sept. 7 before heading to work at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant. (Kengo Hiyoshi)Hideo Kawai of Hitachi-GE Nuclear Energy Ltd., left, and Ikuzo Tomioka of HitachiPlant Technologies Ltd. (Photos by Kengo Hiyoshi)HIRONO, Fukushima Prefecture -- They survived the Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami,narrowly escaped hydrogen explosions and are now braving radiation levels that force them to leaveafter only a few minutes.But Hideo Kawai and Ikuzo Tomioka, who have continued working at the crippled Fukushima No.1 nuclear power plant since the disaster struck on March 11, have no plans to leave."We are responsible for giving it our all as a manufacturer," Kawai said.Kawai, 57, of Hitachi-GE Nuclear Energy Ltd. and Tomioka, 51, of Hitachi Plant Technologies Ltd.are the leaders of about 600 workers of Hitachi Ltd.'s group companies who are staying in Hirono,Fukushima Prefecture, a little more than 20 kilometers from the nuclear plant.The workers are now preparing to install equipment to remove gas containing radioactive materialsfrom the No. 1 reactor building where a hydrogen explosion occurred in the early stages of thedisaster.At some places in the No. 1 reactor building, radiation has exceeded 1 sievert per hour, a level thatcan cause acute radiation damage unless adequate precautions are taken.The Hitachi group set a maximum of 30 millisieverts for annual accumulated radiation levels for workers at the plant, which is stricter than the government standard of 50 millisieverts. Workers arenot allowed to work if radiation levels exceed the Hitachi group's limit.Radiation levels are measured strictly before workers enter the hot spots within the plant. Shieldingmade of copper and other materials has been set up to protect the workers, but they can only stay incertain hot spots for about five minutes.Few people in responsible positions have publicly discussed what happened and is happening at theFukushima No. 1 plant. Tokyo Electric Power Co., the plant's operator, has declined requests for interviews with Masao Yoshida, site superintendent of the Fukushima plant, and other companyofficials.But Kawai and Tomioka explained to The Asahi Shimbun their experiences so far in trying to bringthe situation under control.When the magnitude-9 earthquake struck on March 11, Kawai told almost all of the 1,800 workersof Hitachi group companies at the plant to evacuate. About 6,400 employees of TEPCO and other companies were at the site during the quake.The plant premises soon became jam-packed with cars. Kawai remained at the plant, and received a phone call from a TEPCO official in the late afternoon.