Meanwhile, workers complain of docked pay, unpaid hazard allowances – which should be 10,000 yen, or $110, a day – and of inadequate safety equipment and training for handling the hazardous waste they are clearing from towns, shores and forests after meltdowns of three nuclear plant reactor cores at Fukushima Dai- Ichi released radiation into the surrounding air, soil and ocean.
“We are only part of a widespread problem,” said a 56-year-old cleanup worker, who asked to be identified only by his last name, Nakamura, out of fear of retaliation. “Everyone, from bureaucrats to construction giants to tattooed gangsters, is trying to prey on decontamination projects. And the government is looking the other way.”
During a recent visit to Naraha, a deserted town of 8,000 that is now a weedy no-man’s land within the 20- kilometer (12-mile) restricted zone around the crippled nuclear plant, workers wearing regular work clothes and surgical masks were scraping away topsoil, chopping tree branches and washing down roofs.
“They told me only how to cut grass, but nothing about radiation,” said Munenori Kagaya, 59, who worked in the nearby town of Tomioka, which is off-limits due to high radiation.
Naraha’s mayor, Yukiei Matsumoto, said that early on, he and other local officials were worried over improper handling of the 1.5 trillion yen ($16 billion) cleanup, but refrained from raising the issue, until public allegations of dozens of instances of mishandling of radioactive waste prompted an investigation by the Environment Ministry, which is handling decontamination of the 11 worst-affected towns and villages.
“I want them to remind them again what the cleanup is for,” Matsumoto said in an interview. “Its purpose is to improve the environment so that people can safely return to live here. It’s not just to meet a deadline and get it over with.”<< previous 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 next >>