Of the many thousands of workers who have risked radiation exposure at the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, only a paltry 3.7 percent are eligible for free cancer screenings provided by the government and Tokyo Electric Power Co.
The percentage represents 904 people among 24,118 who have worked at the facility since the onset of the disaster in March 2011 to September this year.
The low rate is because the government and plant operator TEPCO limited the scope of free screenings to those who were exposed to radiation of more than 50 millisieverts between March 11, 2011, and mid-December 2011, when the central government announced that reactor meltdowns triggered by the magnitude-9.0 earthquake and tsunami were under control.
Despite that declaration, a number of workers have still been exposed to high levels of radiation at the plant.
In September, it was found that total radiation exposure topped 50 millisieverts in 24 workers. But 22 of them, excluding two TEPCO employees who are covered by special measures, are not eligible for the free examinations.
Is this surprising? Could it happen here?