More From Fukushima

Grind for September 23rd
“A verbal contract isn’t worth the paper it’s written on.” – Samual Goldwyn

Changing The Status Quo

The Headline

California’s new labor law protects “gig workers” like Uber and Lyft drivers

The Grind

A new law signed Wednesday by California Governor Gavin Newsom offers new protections for “gig workers” in a variety of industries including trucking, ride-hailing, healthcare, and media.

The law treats independent contractors as employees, offering traditional benefits like paid sick days, health insurance, and minimum wage.

The Details

“The hollowing out of our middle-class has been 40 years in the making, and the need to create lasting economic security for our workforce demands action,” said Newsom at the signing ceremony.

“As one of the strongest economies in the world, California is now setting the global standard for worker protections for other states and countries to follow,” added Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez (D-San Diego).

Uber, Lyft and Doordash oppose the law and plan to collectively spend $90 million on a 2020 ballot measure aimed to regulate gig workers.

“We’ve engaged in good faith with the Legislature, the Newsom Administration, and labor leaders for nearly a year on this issue, and we believe California is missing a real opportunity to lead the nation by improving the quality, security, and dignity of independent work,” argues Uber executive Tony West.

An Explosive Decision

The Headline

Japan: Three executives who failed to protect the Fukushima power plant during the 2011 tsunami are found “not guilty” of negligence

The Grind

In the first trial against individuals related to the March 2011 disaster at Tokyo Electric Power’s (TEPCO) nuclear plant in Fukushima, a Japanese court has found three executives not guilty of negligence.

The defendants – former vice presidents Sakae Muto and Ichiro Takekuro and former chairman Tsunehisa Katsumata – were aware of a possible tsunami, but the forecast was uncertain.

After reviewing the plant’s assessment on earthquake risks, the court decided the defendants were right to question its reliability.

The only way to have protected Fukushima from the tsunami would have been to shut it down completely, said the court. The risk assessment did not recommend such drastic measures even for a tsunami exceeding 50 feet.

Furthermore, government standards in 2011 did not require TEPCO to protect the plant “to a level where there would absolutely never be a release of radioactive elements from inside the reactor to the outside environment under any circumstances,” wrote the court.

TEPCO and the Japanese government have appealed a 2017 ruling that found both parties guilty of negligence and ordered them to pay more than $4 million in damages.

The Background

The Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant is located on Japan’s Pacific coast in Okuma, Fukushima Prefecture.

Fukushima was commissioned in 1971. With six boiling water reactors, it was among the 15 largest nuclear power stations in the world.

On March 11th, 2011, Japan was hit by one of the most powerful earthquakes in history. The quake triggered a 40-foot tsunami that swept over Fukushima’s seawalls and disabled the emergency generators needed to cool the reactors.

The event caused three nuclear meltdowns, explosions, and radiation leaks that forced the evacuation of tens of thousands of people. Some areas are still off-limits.

Fukushima is the most severe nuclear disaster since the 1986 accident at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant in Ukraine. Fukushima and Chernobyl are the only two events to receive a Level 7 designation on the International Nuclear Event Scale (indicating a massive release of radiation likely to threaten health and environment).

As I wrote last week, workers at Fukushima have used more than 1 million tons of water to keep fuel cores from melting since 2011. Authorities are thinking about dumping the contaminated water into the ocean when they run out of storage space in 2022.

The radiation levels inside the damaged reactors are still strong enough to kill a person in minutes. TEPCO sent a robot inside one of the reactors last month, but it got stuck in melted nuclear fuel.

Did you know… In Korea, a child’s first birthday is the most important. In one part of the celebration, several items are placed on a table. The one that the baby picks up first is said to predict their future.