Homeless recruited to clean up Fukushima Daiichi nuclear facility and surrounding area
Japanese president Shinzo Abe put on a polished show in front of the International Olympic Committee last summer.
So good, in fact, that his efforts helped Tokyo secure the right in September to host the 2020 Summer Olympics.
He brushed off questions about the Fukushima nuclear disaster, saying the situation was under control and posed no threat to Tokyo.
What he neglected to mention is that contractors are recruiting the homeless to accept low-paying jobs to clean up the radioactive mess created by an earthquake and tsunami on March 11, 2011.
Following a major investigation, Reuters recently reported that labour recruiters descend on a train station in the northern Japanese city of Sendai in the early hours to persuade the homeless "to clean up radioactive fallout across an area of northern Japan larger than Hong Kong".
The news agency also noted that criminal syndicates are involved in the operation, which results in the homeless being paid less than minimum wage.
"Seiji Sasa, 67, a broad-shouldered former wrestling promoter, was photographed by undercover police recruiting homeless men at the Sendai train station to work in the nuclear cleanup," Reuters reported as part of its investigation. "The workers were then handed off through a chain of companies reporting up to Obayashi, as part of a $1.4 million contract to decontaminate roads in Fukushima, police say."
Abe has reportedly allocated $35 billion for the "rebirth of Fukushima", which means there's oodles of money available in contracts.
Unit 3 steam emissions explained
Meanwhile, various websites have been speculating about possible new problems at the Fukushima Daiichi Unit 3, where a visible steam cloud has been pouring out of the facility since December 30.
However one of the foremost critics of nuclear energy, Fairewinds Energy Education, posted a statement on its website today saying that this reactor is not going to explode.
Here's part of the explanation from Fairewinds, whose chief engineer, Arnie Gunderson, spent more than 40 years in the nuclear-power industry:
It is winter and it is cold throughout much of the northern hemisphere. Hot water vapor has been released daily by each of the four Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plants since the accident. We believe that is one of the reasons TEPCO placed covers over Daiichi 4 and 1. Sometimes the steam [hot water vapor] is visible and sometimes it is not. If you have been outside on a cold winter day, you have personally experienced that phenomenon when you see the breath you exhale form a cloud in the cold air. The technical explanation is that hot water vapor becomes visible when it comes in contact with cold air and condenses. During the winter months in the Fukushima Prefecture, the sea air is cold and moist, thus forming the ideal conditions to see the released steam.
Fairewinds noted that when Unit 3 was operating, it produced more than 2,000 megawatts of heat; today, it's generating slightly less than one megawatt of "decay heat".
While that is still a considerable amount, it's not new.
"These hot radioactive releases [not physically hot, but radioactive hot—meaning they contain radioactive fission products] have [been] occurring for the entire 33 months following the triple meltdown," Fairewinds stated. "The difference now is that the only time we visibly notice these ongoing releases is on the cold days with atmospheric conditions cold enough to condense hot vapor into steam."