TOKYO, July 21 (Xinhua) -- Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO), operator of the crisis-hit Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, has been unable to verify the location of 198 workers who have been part of the 1500-strong team engaged in daily activities to bring the world's worst nuclear disaster in 25-years under control.
Japan's public service broadcaster NHK said Thursday that the beleaguered utility firm submitted a report to the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare stating that it has been unable to account for the 198 workers who were working at the radiation- leaking plant between March and April.
While TEPCO said it has tested some 8,338 of its workers for exposure to radiation, 1500 employees working in high-risk conditions, including the 198 personnel as yet unaccounted for, have yet to be tested more than four months after the March 11 quake-triggered tsunami sparked an ongoing nuclear catastrophe, the utility said.
The health ministry blasted TEPCOs lax personnel management and demanded that the 198 anonymous workers be identified and tested for radiation by next Friday.
Under possible suspicion that TEPCO and its subsidiaries and affiliates used day laborers working off the books at both the No. 1 and No. 2 nuclear power plants in Fukushima prefecture, Japan's Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency is actively investigating the case.
If it comes to light that TEPCO hired workers without confirming their identities, the firm could stand in violation of Japan's anti-terrorism laws.
The operator of the stricken plant, who has been plagued with technical and organizational problems as it struggles to bring three of its six reactors to a stable state known as "cold shutdown", also said that during the March to April period, 64 of its workers at the plant received internal radiation exposure of 50 to 100 millisieverts.
In addition, nine people have been exposed to radiation levels exceeding the maximum annual limit of 250 millisieverts, according to TEPCO.
Workers at the crippled plant located 220-kilometer north of Tokyo are now contending with issues of intense summer heat causing heatstroke and continue to complain of poor accommodation, despite Goshi Hosono, the state minister responsible for dealing with the nuclear crisis, saying on Wednesday that conditions had improved considerably.
As well as working "intolerably" long shifts, as one worker described it, the workers are toiling in heat upwards of 30 degrees Celsius everyday while wearing full-body protective gear that includes masks and helmets that cover their entire heads.
TEPCO said that 32 workers have been diagnosed as suffering from heatstroke as of Monday and on Tuesday, a worker in his twenties was hospitalized with severe heatstroke.
Heatstroke is defined as the body temperature in an individual reaching 40 degrees Celsius or higher and if not treated promptly and correctly can be fatal.
Special Report: Massive quake shakes Japan