Nuclear Ginza: Japan's secret at-risk labor force and the Fukushima disaster

Back in 1995, the UK’s Channel 4 produced a 30-minute documentary on Japan’s nuclear industry and how they use disadvantaged people, including burakumin and other day laborers, to do manual labor inside their power plants. And by inside, I mean inside. Some were forced to work right next to the room where the core was kept, in the dark and drenched in sweat; one man tells how he was forced to mop up radioactive water with towels.

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

(via The Atomic Age, thank you to Shihoku Fujiwara of Polaris Project for the link)

One would like to think that things have changed over the years, but even now in Fukushima, reports are being published that tell how people are being lured with offers of up to ¥400,000 per day to work at the nuclear reactors–many of whom are victims of the tsunami. Because of high radiation levels the amount of time each person can spend inside is limited. TEPCO confirms they’re working with outside agencies to secure enough workers to keep operations running, but refused to comment on how much each person is being paid.

22 thoughts on “Nuclear Ginza: Japan's secret at-risk labor force and the Fukushima disaster”

  1. Great post. I was trying for the longest time to see failure in the sources so I can claim that it is an April Fool’s joke. I see now that it is not, but it still seems so surreal in a way that it is still difficult to take as truth. Perhaps that is the point of people like yourself to post these articles – to let people know that things they want to ignore or can’t imagine, are real and affecting people they may know. Thanks

  2. It is sad this is NOT an April fool’s joke. This just gets my blood boiling. One would like to think that in today’s day and age that people aren’t subjected to this.

    In situations like the current one in Fukushima, the best thing that any company can do is be transparent and highlight what needs to be done and ask for as much technical assistance as is practical. Luring people to work for $3500 a day to work cleaning up the disaster is understandable if they have the background in radiological accidents and disasters, but I would bet that they’re scooping desperate folks to do whatever and making them work in unsafe conditions. It’s sad that this happened even when things were OK!

    And now TEPCO is probably going to be nationalized due to the heavy losses the company will have to settle with farmers and workers over lost wages, cleanup efforts, and probably fines by the government. And I bet you most of the management team will stay on board. The whole lot should be thrown in the slammer with the yakuza.

    I certainly hope the other reactors in Japan undergo a mandatory inspection by the IAEA. Only then will things be transparent.

  3. I just showed this to my Japanese GF. She gave me the business how this is all anti Japanese American/ British propaganda…. I’m in the doghouse tonight, thanks Jake.

    1. Stand up to your Japanese “friend”! It’s not “anti-Japanese” to support JAPANESE workers, is it? It’s not “anti-Japanese” to criticize the nuclear industry in the United States and Britain which does things that are just as EVIL! The fact of the matter is that such arguments play into the hands of people who are DESTROYING Japan!

  4. Not that the US nuclear industry is much better, but the Japanese nuclear industry has worried me since the workers in Tokai-mura decided to mix a batch of fuel in a bucket, triggering a critical mass reaction that killed two and sickened others, back in the 90’s.

  5. The Japan end !!!
    This obviously !!!
    Very small country for atomic energy..
    the export end….the people end…

  6. Thank you for that truly disturbing post, JSRC, and thank you, Jake, for a magnificent book.
    Jake, I heard a vicious little rumour about ya-chan involvement in the construction of Fukushima Daiichi, and my source suggested that I follow up with you about it. It’s hard to image that the Y wasn’t involved somehow at least in the construction gangs back then, but my man also suggested cheap and possibly sub-par concrete. Any thoughts?
    I guess you saw this, which I thought was a good piece of investigative journalism, by Bloomberg of all people:
    Other miscellaneous, unsubstantiated, and delicious rumours from the past 10 days:
    PM Kan won’t leave the Kantei when it’s raining (that comes from a source very close to Edano),
    most of TEPCO senior management have evacuated to Aizu Wakamatsu, to be simultaneously close to the disaster and in a bonchi cup-shaped valley due west of Daiichi that is less likely than Tokyo to be irradiated, and that JSDF reservists have been called up for the first time since their 1954 establishment and sent to Koriyama, to prepare for bigger evacuations. All stuff and nonsense, I’m sure.


  7. No mention of how some of those “outside agencies” are organized criminals taking their cut of the daily pay? These guys aren’t all soup kitchens and onigiri at times of crisis. This is the sort of factoid I’d expect to see covered in detail at this website, rather than something to read between the lines of NYT coverage of the story.

  8. I found an article claiming that those people who owed the yakuza money and failed to pay it, had life insurance policies taken out in their names and were then made to go and work on fishing boats where they inexplicably had accidents and never returned.
    This left the yakuza holding a life insurance policy to be paid out on.

    With all the fukushima workers that have gone missing, a figure in the 200+ people, and the fact that the yakuza are involved in the sourcing of these people from the homeless day labourer pools, i wonder how many had life insurance policies taken out in their names before they went missing.
    interesting line of research for a japanese speaking person who could collate all the required information.

    1. I would really love to see that article. And you raise an interesting point. It’s possible. And food for thought.
      If you could sen me a link to the article you mention, it would be appreciated.

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