$5,000 A Day? 'Jumpers Offered Big Money For Nuke Work' - Spokane, North Idaho News & Weather KHQ.com

$5,000 A Day? 'Jumpers Offered Big Money For Nuke Work'

MSN - It's a job that sounds too good to be true — thousands of dollars for up to an hour of work that often requires little training.

But it also sounds too outrageous to accept, given the full job description: working in perilously radioactive environments.

In its attempts to bring under control its radiation-gushing nuclear power plant that was severely damaged by last month's massive earthquake and tsunami, Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO) is trying to get workers ever closer to the sources of stubborn radiation at the plant and end the world's worst nuclear crisis since Chernobyl.

Workers are reportedly being offered hazard pay to work in the damaged reactors of up to $5,000 per day — or more accurately, a fraction of a day, since the radiation-drenched shifts must be drastically restricted.

A TEPCO official said this week that the beleaguered company has tasks fit for "jumpers" -- workers so called because they "jump" into highly radioactive areas to accomplish a job in a minimum of time and race out as quickly as possible.

Sometimes jumpers can make multiple runs if the cumulative dosage is within acceptable limits — although "acceptable" can be open to interpretation.

In cases of extreme leaks however the radiation might be so intense that jumpers can only make one such foray in their entire lives, or risk serious radiation poisoning.

For three weeks the reactors at TEPCO's Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power station, 150 miles north of Tokyo, have been explosive cauldrons of hydrogen blasts, radioactive steam and contaminated water that has apparently run off into the ocean, where levels of radioactive iodine have been found at several thousand times the normal level in recent days.

TEPCO said 18 employees and three contractors were exposed to 100 millisieverts of radiation on Friday. The average dose for a nuclear plant worker is 50 millisieverts over five years.

Last week two workers in Reactor 3 were admitted to hospital after their feet were exposed to 170-180 millisieverts, according to the International Atomic Energy Agency.

The company said this week it will shut down permanently at least four of the six reactors at the plant. But it first must stabilize and then cool the fuel, and has been desperately trying to douse fuel rods with water, and now clean up the radiation-contaminated water that's stagnating on reactor floors.

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