Thursday, March 31, 2011

WANTED: U.S. workers for crippled Japan nuke plant

NEW YORK | Thu Mar 31, 2011 7:55pm EDT

Reuters - As foreign assignments go this must be just about the most dangerous going.

A U.S. recruiter is hiring nuclear power workers in the United States to help Japan gain control of the stricken Fukushima Daiichi plant, which has been spewing radiation.

The qualifications: Skills gained in the nuclear industry, a passport, a family willing to let you go, willingness to work in a radioactive zone.

The rewards: Higher than normal pay and the challenge of solving a major crisis.

"About two weeks ago we told our managers to put together a wish list of anyone interested in going to Japan," said Joe Melanson, a recruiter at specialist nuclear industry staffing firm Bartlett Nuclear in Plymouth, Massachusetts, on Thursday.

So far, the firm has already signed up some workers who will be flying to Japan on Sunday.

Melanson said there will be less than 10 workers in the initial group. Others are expected to follow later, he added.

Plant owner Tokyo Electric Power Co (TEPCO) has appealed to the nuclear industry outside of Japan for assistance as the crisis has spiraled beyond their control.

On Thursday, the company said radiation levels in water found in tunnels under the plant was 10,000 times the normal level and radioactive iodine 131 was found in ground water near No.1 reactor of the complex.

Melanson said Bartlett Nuclear had been approached by sub-contractors linked to the General Electric-Hitachi nuclear joint venture. GE designed the Fukushima reactors.

"At first, we had no details about the duration of the job or the positions needed. The only requirement was that you have a valid passport," Melanson said.

But as the job details came in, Bartlett managers scoured the list of volunteers and selected several engineers and technicians "we knew would perform well for us over there."

So just what type of person would go into a damaged nuclear plant that is throwing out dangerous levels of radiation?


Melanson said these are not roughnecks prepared to risk their health for a quick paycheck but senior technicians and engineers who have come up through the ranks.

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