Well, the Times writers did not use the word “scam”, however, they did promote the thought by quoting a disgusted Kiyoshi Sakurai, nuclear critic and former researcher for the old Japan Atomic Energy Agency.
“It’s a scam. Decontamination is becoming big business.”
Beyond that, it seems that the proficiency of the clean-up efforts falls well short of what is considered the normal Japanese attention to detail, concise planning, and dedication ot the job at hand.
As 500 workers in hazmat suits and respirator masks fanned out to decontaminate this village 20 miles from the ravaged Fukushima Daiichi nuclear reactors, their confusion was apparent.
“Dig five centimeters or 10 centimeters deep here?” a site supervisor asked his colleagues, pointing to a patch of radioactive topsoil to be removed. He then gestured across the village square toward the community center. “Isn’t that going to be demolished? Shall we decontaminate it or not?”
A day laborer wiping down windows at an abandoned school nearby shrugged at the work crew’s haphazard approach. “We are all amateurs,” he said. “Nobody really knows how to clean up radiation.”
Yes, the citizens of the Fukushima area, who are being lured, begged, and coerced by threats of loss of compensation benefits to return to their hometowns to complete the image the government and nuclear industry wants the world to see, which is that the situation is under control and that there was really nothing to worry about the whole time, are in good hands…right?
Back to the scam.
Nobody may really know how. But that has not deterred the Japanese government from starting to hand out an initial $13 billion in contracts meant to rehabilitate the more than 8,000-square-mile region most exposed to radioactive fallout — an area nearly as big as New Jersey. The main goal is to enable the return of many of the 80,000 or more displaced people nearest the site of last March’s nuclear disaster, including the 6,500 villagers of Iitate.
It is far from clear, though, that the unproved cleanup methods will be effective.
Even more disturbing to critics of the decontamination program is the fact that the government awarded the first contracts to three giant construction companies — corporations that have no more expertise in radiation cleanup than anyone else does, but that profited hugely from Japan’s previous embrace of nuclear power.
It was these same three companies that helped build 45 of Japan’s 54 nuclear plants — including the reactor buildings and other plants at Fukushima Daiichi that could not withstand the tsunami that caused a catastrophic failure — according to data from Citizens’ Nuclear Information Center, a watchdog group.
One of them, the Taisei Corporation, leads the consortium that sent out the workers now tramping around Iitate in hazmat suits. Consortiums led by Taisei and the other two big companies — Obayashi and Kajima — among them received contracts for the government’s first 12 pilot decontamination projects, totaling about $93 million.
The people of Fukushima are counting on these companies to provide a safe place to live. The Japanese taxpayer is counting on the government not wasting their money. The construction companies are taking the money and giving the nation “on-the-job-training”. It seems to be an environment in which only the construction companies – and their supporters in the bureaucracy who will undoubtedly have nice jobs waiting for them when they retire from being public “servants”, and the politicians who will receive nice campaign donations and under-the-table gifts – will get what they want.
But there is little consensus on what cleanup methods might prove effective in Japan. Radioactive particles are easily carried by wind and rain, and could recontaminate towns and cities even after a cleanup crew has passed through, experts say.
“No experts yet exist in decontamination, and there is no reason why the state should pay big money to big construction companies,” said Yoichi Tao, a visiting professor in physics at Kogakuin University who is helping Iitate villagers test decontamination methods on their own. He is also monitoring the effectiveness of the energy agency’s decontamination projects.
Well, no reason except that no one is forcing the government to stop feeding this corruption. The media doesn’t run banner headlines about the corruption (it has to come from a foreign newspaper). There no politicians making too much noise for the media to ignore about the corruption. The people are not marching on the government offices en masse demanding a stop to the corruption. The Japanese legal system does not investigate nor prosecute government/corporate corruption unless a politician falls out of favor (Ozawa).
Given these facts, why would the government or these construction companies or the yakuza or the nuclear industry or anyone else even worry about participating in such massive corruption? Do the Japanese people expect that politicians and bureaucrats will suddenly realize that they work for the people and put a stop to it? Or perhaps they will discover some sense of morality within their tiny hearts and decide to do the “right thing” and stop it. Does anyone thin that is possible?
The whole thing is a mess and, frankly, the Japanese people are to blame for allowing the government to be openly corrupt.
A similar cleanup project at the Iitate community center last fall, undertaken by the local government, was unable to reduce the radiation to safe levels.
“Even if they clean up our homes, the radiation will sweep down from the mountains again and recontaminate everything,” said Muneo Kanno, a 60-year-old farmer. Like many other residents of Iitate, he stayed in the village for more than a month after the disaster, unaware that the radioactive plumes had reached Iitate.
And then the scam will begin again and more money will be wasted by a system rife with incompetence and corruption.