May 23, 2019

TEPCO to carefully consider hiring foreign workers at Fukushima plant

TEPCO to carefully consider hiring foreign workers at Fukushima plant photo

TOKYO - The operator of the disaster-hit Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant said Wednesday it will not hire foreigners who enter Japan under a new visa program launched last month for decommissioning work at the complex until it can confirm their safety will be ensured.

The decision comes after the labor ministry told Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc. that the company needs to be careful about sending foreign workers to the Fukushima plant, where workers are required to precisely follow safety instructions.

Japan introduced the new visa status on April 1 to cope with a chronic labor shortage due to the country's rapidly graying population and declining birthrate, bringing in mainly blue-collar foreign workers to 14 sectors in a major policy shift from traditionally strict immigration rules.

TEPCO to carefully consider hiring foreign workers at Fukushima plant photo

(Photo taken on Feb. 7, 2019 shows a fuel pool in the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant's No. 3 reactor building.)

The company known as TEPCO has told subcontractors not to dispatch foreign workers they hire under the new visa program to the plant until the utility finalizes its foreign labor policy regarding decommissioning work.

The company had said it planned to accept foreign workers at the Fukushima plant after confirming with the Justice Ministry that holders of the new visas are eligible to work at the complex crippled by the massive earthquake and tsunami in March 2011.

Around 4,000 people on average engage in decommissioning work at the Fukushima plant each day.

The Japanese government expects up to 345,000 foreigners to acquire the so-called Specified Skilled Worker No. 1 status to work in the 14 sectors including nursing care, construction and farming over the next five years.

Proficient workers in the construction and shipbuilding fields will be able to extend their stays by securing No. 2 status, which allows holders to bring in family members and does not limit the number of times visas can be renewed.



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