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Workers At Japanese Nuclear Plant Face Grim Conditions

In this photo released by Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency, Tokyo Electric Power Co. workers collect data in the control room for Unit 1 and Unit 2 at the tsunami-crippled Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant, March 23, 2011.

When workers at the damaged nuclear plant in Japan are not toiling to avert a catastrophic nuclear meltdown, they are enduring the most basic living conditions.

An official with Japan's Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency, Kazuma Yokota, spent several days at the plant recently and on Tuesday gave reporters their first glimpse into the workers' routine.

Yokota said the workers at the Fukushima plant sleep anywhere they can find floor space, including conference rooms and corridors, in a building on the grounds of the plant. The building is designed to withstand radiation, but officials say radiation levels inside the building are still higher than normal.

Yokota says the workers eat only two meals a day - crackers and vegetable juice for breakfast, and for dinner instant rice and canned foods. There are no showers and often no change of clothes for the workers, who spend 12 hours at a time on the job.

The ranks of the workers has risen from an initial 50 when the crisis began to several hundred.

Japan's Chief Cabinet Secretary, Yukio Edano, acknowledged Tuesday that more should have been done for the workers. Edano, however, said the priority had to be on bringing the situation at the plant under control and averting a disaster.

Last week, two workers at the plant were taken to a hospital after stepping in radioactive water.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP and Reuters.