Organized crime has infiltrated Japan's publicly funded cleanup of the Fukushima nuclear plant, rounding up homeless men to work for below minimum wage inside the closed facility's danger zone, according to a special report from Reuters
Recruiters are paid $100 per head in what is considered one of the most undesirable jobs in the country, but criminal groups have become active in combing areas known as gathering places for homeless men to get recruits to pad their coffers, Reuters said.
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Three of Japan's largest criminal syndicates — Yamaguchi-gumi, Sumiyoshi-kai, and Inagawa-kai — have set up black-market recruiting agencies under Obayashi, Japan's second largest construction company, to bring in men to remove radioactive soil and debris from contaminated areas.
"We are taking it very seriously that these incidents keep happening one after another," Junichi Ichikawa, a spokesman for Obayashi, told Reuters. "There were elements of what we had been doing that did not go far enough."
Japanese authorities made arrests in January, October, and November, charging gang members with illegally sending workers to the $35 billion government funded project, said Reuters. Obayashi has not been accused in the wrongdoing.
Reuters said Japan has struggled to find workers to help clean the massive fallout area in northern Japan that is the larger than Hong Kong. The radiation cleanup, the largest nuclear cleanup in history, is behind schedule due to poor oversight as well as lack of workers.
Tokyo Electric Power, operator of the Fukushima nuclear power plant, decided earlier this month to decommission the facility's two remaining reactors, Units 5 and 6.
Tokyo Electric reactors 1 to 4 were declared defunct in April 2012, 13 months after the 2011 earthquake and tsunami that severely damaged the plant. Japan has 48 nuclear reactors, which are all offline pending safety checks in connection with the 2011 disaster.
"With the decision to decommission the two units, the whole power station will now be decommissioned," Tokyo Electric said in a statement, per United Press International
. "We feel an overwhelming sense of shame and regret at the fact that by this accident, we have failed to repay the trust placed in us by the local residents."
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