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Mob involved in Fukushima clean-up: Japan reporter
by Staff Writers
Tokyo (AFP) Dec 15, 2011

A Japanese journalist who worked at the crippled Fukushima nuclear plant this summer claimed Thursday that Japan's yakuza crime syndicates were involved in supplying clean-up crews.

"Roughly ten percent of plant workers there were brought in through the mediation of the yakuza," said Tomohiko Suzuki, 45, who has written a book based on his experience at the Fukushima Daiichi plant.

"The yakuza are very much involved in this industry but they are not involved as people working on site," Suzuki told reporters. "They are in charge of collecting people, finding people and dispatching workers to the site."

Suzuki says yakuza groups have long sent debtors to nuclear power plants as workers as a way of paying off loans made at sky-high rates, adding the practice "will continue to occur".

Like the Italian mafia or Chinese triads, the yakuza has engaged in activities from gambling, drugs and prostitution to loan sharking, protection rackets, white-collar crime and business conducted through front companies.

The gangs, which are not illegal, have historically been tolerated by the authorities, although there are periodic clampdowns on some of their less savoury activities.

In the wake of the 9.0 magnitude earthquake and resulting tsunami on March 11, reactors at the Fukushima plant were sent into meltdown, resulting in the release of a large amount of radioactive materials.

Workers, who have routinely been exposed to high levels of radiation, have battled since to bring the reactors under control, with periodic reports of lax safety standards and a lack of care for contracted employees from site operator Tokyo Electric Power (TEPCO).

The government is expected to announce on Friday that the plant has been brought to a stable state of "cold shutdown", with low pressure and stable temperatures.

But Suzuki claimed the plant is still "in a state of crisis".

"(TEPCO) was pushing for sloppy construction as it has been in a hurry to achieve cold shutdown as quickly as possible," it said.

Suzuki, a freelance journalist who has covered the yakuza for several years, was hired through a sub-contractor to reactor-maker Toshiba and assigned a job related to reprocessing contaminated water in July and August.

A spokeswoman for TEPCO denied there had been any yakuza involvement in efforts to clean up the plant.

"We are taking action under the law against crime syndicates, and we understand that our contractors are properly hiring employees," she told AFP.

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Japan's Noda to declare Fukushima shutdown Friday
Tokyo, Japan (AFP) Dec 15, 2011 - Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda is expected to announce on Friday that the crippled Fukushima nuclear plant has been brought under control, reports said.

Noda will hold a press conference Friday from 6:00 pm (0900 GMT), with local media saying he will proclaim cold shutdown of the plant.

The announcement would be in line with the Japanese government's promise of achieving cold shutdown of the overheating reactors by the year's end.

The announcement will be followed by fresh steps toward decommissioning the reactors, a process that is expected to take more than three decades.

The Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant was severely damaged by a 9.0-magnitude earthquake and resulting tsunami on March 11, which knocked out cooling systems.

That sparked meltdowns, explosions and the release of huge amounts of radioactive materials into the environment -- the worst nuclear accident since the 1986 Chernobyl disaster.

The plant's operator Tokyo Electric Power has poured water into the reactors to cool the melted fuel rods inside.

The utility has faced a number of technical problems as it worked to process tonnes of radioactive water generated by this cooling, but the operation has stablised in recent months.

The nuclear disaster prompted fears of radiation contamination across eastern Japan, with many consumers trying to avoid fish and farm products from the region.


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Koriyama, Japan (AFP) Dec 14, 2011
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