As the government in Japan continues to lead the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster response, many people in Japan say the government’s efforts are misguided. Critics of the government and nuclear experts say the government’s billion dollars in cleanup contracts and hundreds of untrained workers are just wasting money. The Japanese leaders have awarded billions to the very same companies who built the flawed reactors that failed at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant — companies who nuclear experts say know nothing about reducing radioactive pollution.
The Japanese government has awarded the first cleanup contracts to three of Japan’s largest construction companies — Taisei Corporation, Obayashi, and Kajima — which are responsible for building 45 of the 54 Japanese nuclear plants including the failed reactors at Fukushima Daiichi that were responsible for the whole disaster. Critics say the government shouldn’t be awarding these hefty contracts to the companies that profited off of unstable nuclear reactors in the first place.
One decontamination worker interviewed by the New York Times told a reporter, “We are all amateurs. Nobody really knows how to clean up radiation.” The worker was in the midst of a construction crew in Iitate, Japan that the newspaper said was disorderly at best. The worker was part of a group hired to wipe down surfaces in the town, which was affected by the nuclear follout. Villagers in Iitate, distrusting the government’s way of going about the cleanup, have been doing their own unfunded decontamination research with local university professors and nuclear experts. The villagers have performed experiments that say that the first order of business should actually be clearing dead vegetative matter from the vast mountains surrounding Iitate because even if you clean all the surfaces in town, if the rain comes it will just wash the radiation from the mountains back to the buildings.
Local TV stations in Japan, according to the New York Times, say that workers are getting paid $325 per day and are being housed in expensive spa hotels. That pay is most likely just a fraction of the cost being paid to the large companies subcontracting the efforts. Local villagers and government critics say those huge fees would be better used if distributed to local villages. If the huge companies don’t know how to decontaminate the ares, why pay top dollar for their efforts when locals who have been displaced are just as willing to work and perhaps have more of an incentive to get the job done right.
Lead image by Vaxomatic
Second image by Likable Rodent
Third image by Frank Pierson