The ministry said it found only five questionable cases, though it acknowledged a need for better oversight.
Another probe, by the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry found rampant labor violations – inadequate education and protection from radiation exposure, a lack of medical checks and unpaid salaries and hazard pay – at nearly half the cleanup operations in Fukushima.
About half of the 242 contractors involved were reprimanded for violations, the ministry said.
An Environment Ministry official in charge of decontamination said the government has little choice but to rely on big contractors, and to give them enough leeway to get the work done.
“We have to admit that only the major construction companies have the technology and manpower to do such large-scale government projects,” said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, citing the sensitivity of the issue. “If cleanup projects are overseen too strictly, it will most likely cause further delays and labor shortages.”
Minoru Hara, deputy manager at a temporary waste storage site in Naraha, defended the 3,000 workers doing the work – the only people allowed to stay in the town.
“Most of the cleanup workers are working sincerely and hard,” Hara said. “They are doing a good job of washing down houses and cleaning up gardens. Such criticism is really unfair, and bad for morale.”
Labor shortages, lax oversight and massive amounts of funds budgeted for the clean-up are a recipe for cheating. And plenty of money is at stake: the cleanup of a 20-kilometer (12-mile) segment of an expressway whose worst contamination exceeds allowable radiation limits by 10 times will cost 2.1 billion yen ($22.5 billion), said Yoshinari Yoshida, an Environment Ministry official.<< previous 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 next >>