A Tour of Fukushima's Worker Village

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For the first month in the eight months since an earthquake and tsunami hit the Fukushima nuclear power station, the Japanese government has opened the once very contaminated area to media. To showcase its progress, the government only let four foreign media outlets inside, including Martin Fackler for The New York Times, who details his observations for their Lede blog. Today, journalists were taken through J-Village, the sports complex next to the plant, which has been converted into a contamination area. Tomorrow, they will go into the actual plant. Here are some of Fackler's observations paired with photos by the AP's David Guttenfelder, who was the tour's pool photographer.

J-Village consists of 12 soccer fields that are now used for radiation screening, heavy equipment storage, parking and decontamination. A few of the soccer stadiums have also been converted into dorms for employees. "There are 1,000 rooms in prefabricated, two-story buildings on the field, surrounded by rows of empty blue bleachers," explains Fackler. Below, a man walks between dorms, with a defunct score board in the backgound.

Before entering and when leaving the plant from the village, workers go through radiation contamination detectors, like the one seen below, to monitor radiation levels.

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After radiation monitoring, before entering the plant each worker has to don some sort of protective gear. Some wear full-on hazmat suits, while others only have to wear protective masks and gloves, depending on which plant the worker is headed to

After coming back, workers discard the clothing, which, as Fackler describes, get treated as radioactive waste. 

Discarded protective clothing is treated as radioactive waste and stored on a covered soccer practice field marked by off-limits signs. The used clothing was visible in piles. Some was put into white, square storage containers the size of beds, stacked four high. A Tepco guide (there were several) said every discarded piece of protective clothing has been kept here since March 17. The total so far: 480,000 sets.

The before masks:

The after clothing:

The workers Fackler interviewed say the conditions have improved. "The mood inside Fukushima Daiichi is totally different now than it was in beginning,"  Hiroyuki Shida, who measures radiation levels told him. "It is much more relaxed, and more comfortable." "We are not all crammed together like we were before," added fellow worker Shinichi Koga.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.