Nuclear labor issues

Nuclear labor issues exist within the international nuclear power industry and the nuclear weapons production sector worldwide, impacting upon the lives and health of laborers, itinerant workers and their families.[1][2][3]

Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant, April 13, 2011
Radium Girls - Argonne
Fuel pool

A subculture of frequently undocumented workers do the dirty, difficult, and potentially dangerous work shunned by regular employees. They are called in the vernacular Nuclear Nomads, Bio-Robots, Lumnizers, Glow Boys, Radium Girls, the Fukushima 50, Liquidators, Atomic Gypsies, Gamma Sponges, Nuclear Gypsies, Genpatsu Gypsies, Nuclear Samurai and Jumpers.[4] When they exceed their allowable radiation exposure limit at a specific facility, they often migrate to a different nuclear facility. The industry implicitly accepts this conduct as it can not operate without these practices.[5][6] The World Nuclear Association states that the transient workforce of "nuclear gypsies" – casual workers employed by subcontractors – has been "part of the nuclear scene for at least four decades."[7]

Existent labor laws protecting worker's health rights are not always properly enforced.[8] Records are required to be kept, but frequently they are not. Some personnel were not properly trained resulting in their own exposure to toxic amounts of radiation. At several facilities there are ongoing failures to perform required radiological screenings or to implement corrective actions.

Many questions regarding these nuclear worker conditions go unanswered, and with the exception of a few whistleblowers, the vast majority of laborers – unseen, underpaid, overworked and exploited – have few incentives to share their stories.[9] The median annual wage for hazardous radioactive materials removal workers, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics is $37,590 in the U.S – $18 per hour.[10] A 15-country collaborative cohort study of cancer risks due to exposure to low-dose ionizing radiation, involving 407,391 nuclear industry workers showed significant increase in cancer mortality. The study evaluated 31 types of cancers, primary and secondary.[11]


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