Analysis and translation by a tatami-chair observer of East Asian economics and security.
[11:20] Heading to #FCCJ for press luncheon: reporter who went undercover into Fukushima Daiichi.
[11:48] #FCCJ Tomohiko Suzuki, journalist and former FD tempoary worker. Screens set up for slide show: compelling images on the menu.
[11:51] Crowd beginning to file in for #tomosuzu … Heard he’s running late. #FCCJ
[11:55] Guy sitting opposite of me looks like death warmed over. Face mask. Big box of tissue. If you’re that sick, go home. #FCCJ
[12:16] Suzuki’s book, ヤクザと原発 http://pic.twitter.com/WiKaO55f
[12:19] Our man is in the house at #FCCJ http://pic.twitter.com/WiKaO55f
[12:24] About 60 people here for #tomosuzu – not the biggest crowd; i count 5 vidcams. No media scrum. Usual suspects. #FCCJ
[12:28] Japan’s best interpreter is supporting #tomosuzu – interesting. She’s usually reserved for politicians. #FCCJ
[12:33] And so it begins… #tomosuzu at #FCCJ
[12:35] #tomosuzu is freelancer who specializes in yakuza. Hired by toshiba contractor to work at FDNPP. Handled contaminated water.
[12:36] #tomosuzu was fired by TEPCO after his cover was blown. Worked at FDNPP from early July thru August 22.
[12:38] #tomosuzu my book has 2 topics – yaks and the nuclear power biz, and the road ahead for nuclear power in Japan. #FCCJ
[12:40] #tomosuzu says response to FDNPP is every man for himself, not the “isshouni gambarou nippon!” crap we’re being fed. #FCCJ
[12:41] #tomosuzu example: hitachi, toshiba not cooperating; each focused on promoting its own tech, solutions. #FCCJ
[12:43] #tomosuzu sez govt evac limit (20km) was set to avoid impacting larger cities (fukushima, kooriyama) despite dangerous rad levels
[12:45] #tomosuzu sez people w/in exclusion zone exposed to very high levels of radiation. (no figures) #FCCJ
[12:45] #tomosuzu sez rush to achieve cold shutdown has led to shoddy work, substandard materials. #FCCJ
[12:48] #tomosuzu sez toshiba to drill hole in no. 2 reactor to check containment status. This reactor most stable. No one knows fuel state. #FCCJ
[12:50] #tomosuzu sez of FD 50: surely heroes, but anyone sent to work at FDNPP has been given death sentence. #FCCJ
[12:51] #tomosuzu questions govt/bureaucrat ability to understand info they get from Tepco. Doubts they can separate truth from lies. #FCCJ
[12:54] #tomosuzu sez dosimeter badges easily manipulated to give false readings – pin it on backwards, put it in your sock …
[12:55] #tomosuzu sez tepco and workers know badges being manipulated
[12:56] #tomosuzu sez when accident happened labor contractors told by Tepco: “send people who dont mind dying”. #FCCJ
[12:59] #tomosuzu sez tracking workers nearly impossible; gauging health impact major challenge. #FCCJ
[13:01] #tomosuzu sez tepco now pressuring partner companies for worker health info, leading to forged data. Tepco knows.
[13:01] #tomosuzu sez tepco will blame forged data on contractors to escape responsibility. #FCCJ
[13:03] #tomosuzu sez yaks long been part of NPP industry. Dirty people for a shady industry. #FCCJ
[13:04] #tomosuzu sez tepco insulated from blame here, too. They know but look the other way. #FCCJ
[13:05] #tomosuzu sez no progress being made af FDNPP, we are now entering main event. #FCCJ
[13:06] #tomosuzu showing off pinhole camera (embedded in watch; still and vid capable) he used while working at FDNPP.
[13:07] #tomosuzu slide show begins at #FCCJ http://pic.twitter.com/8TrUac7b
[13:08] #tomosuzu says summer was incredibly hot; people collapsed and were carried off daily. #FCCJ
[13:09] #tomosuzu sez 3M mask most popular – didnt leak, accommodated glasses. #FCCJ
[13:11] #tomosuzu sez dates/times on his images have been changed to protect his contractor. #FCCJ
[13:13] Temperature reading during peak summer season; all sensors indicated “dont work”, so were ignored. http://pic.twitter.com/7GxnUAba
[13:14] #tomosuzu sez changed outfit 4x daily, everything thrown away. #FCCJ
[13:16] #tomosuzu sez tepco free medical clinic useless – too far away; only 3-5 users a day. #FCCJ
[13:17] #tomosuzu sez clinic doctors all tepco employees. Medication was basically cold medicine. #FCCJ
[13:19] #tomosuzu sez system set up to extract, preserve worker stem cells, but only he and one other have had the procedure. #FCCJ
[13:21] #tomosuzu sez academics, phrma companies cooperated, rushed to set up stem cell program. Shame not being used. #FCCJ
[13:22] #tomosuzu sez white boards displayed translations of letters from around world for workers to read. #FCCJ
[13:22] #tomosuzu slide show over; on to video now. #FCCJ
[13:24] #tomosuzu sez everyone screened by security company and by police when leaving worker village. #FCCJ
[13:25] #tomosuzu shows shelter interior; think Elliot’s house in ET after the feds arrive. #FCCJ
[13:26] #tomosuzu says shelter signs caution against heat stroke, but no means for avoiding it available to workers. #FCCJ
[13:28] #tomosuzu sez IHI used proper pipes for contaminated water pipeline, not flimsy plastic (pvc) being used now. #FCCJ
[13:29] #tomosuzu sez he was assigned to sweeping while at plant. #FCCJ
[13:32] #tomosuzu sez rad screening of workers purposefully done too fast; also, workers never told which of 7 possible settings being used. #FCCJ
[13:34] #tomosuzu sez warning buzzer disabled. Everything was a “performance” – staged, meaningless. #FCCJ
[13:37] #tomosuzu sez workers lack proper equipment; shoddy work done now means risk of future incidents. #FCCJ
[13:38] #tomosuzu used real name, was found out because he took notes while others slept thru lectures. Lol. #FCCJ
[13:41] #tomosuzu sez full-scale recovery program yet to begin at FDNPP. Workers mostly unskilled (nictos: bucket brigades?)
[13:43] #tomosuzu sez cant prove yaks making money off FDNPP, but locals see more German cars in the ‘hood these days. #FCCJ
[13:44] #tomosuzu work applications rejected by 3 yak-related companies. Finally hired by agency with no gangland ties.
[13:46] #tomosuzu sez workers manipulated dosimeter badges (or left them at home) to accommodate impossible work schedules. #FCCJ
[13:47] #tomosuzu says workers have chosen to expose selves to radiation rather than fight to change impossible work schedules. #FCCJ
[13:49] #tomosuzu sez tepco yet to determine pay scale for dangerous work; toshiba, hitachi have done so.
[13:50] #tomosuzu sez daily pay was 15,000 yen. He donated earnings to okuma and futaba cities. #FCCJ
[13:52] #tomosuzu sez Fukushima 50 included 3 yakuza. #FCCJ
[13:53] #tomosuzu sez FDNPP falls within [–redacted–], but don’t quote him on that (please)! #FCCJ
[13:56] #tomosuzu sez yakuza cut of worker salaries “case by case”. Yak organization like pyramid scheme – level determines cut. #FCCJ
[13:57] #tomosuzu sez dispatchers probably taking cut of 1000 to 2500 yen per day per worker (tax free, of course). #FCCJ
[13:58] #tomosuzu sez higher skilled workers could keep more of their own pay, less skilled were skinned. #FCCJ
[14:02] #tomosuzu sez most workers had experience working at NPPs; only he and one other were newbies. Workers move from plant to plant. #FCCJ
[14:05] #tomosuzu sez his 20y-o group leader was making 1.1 million JPY per month. Fellow was one of Fukushima 50. #FCCJ
[14:06] #tomosuzu sez hitachi used people up quickly, but compensated them well. Toshiba wanted to keep people on brink of survival, edge of death
[14:09] #tomosuzu impression is that 10% of companies involved w/FDNPP cleanup are yakuza related. #FCCJ
[14:11] #tomosuzu sez tohoku region known as “yakuza conservation area”. #FCCJ
[14:17] #tomosuzu sez japanese media not covering dire situation at FDNPP. sad to have to appeal to FCCJ to cover crisis. #FCCJ
Time: 2011 Dec 15 12:00 – 14:00
Journalist, Former Fukushima Daiichi NPP Temporary Worker
The speech and Q & A will be in Japanese with English interpretation
While regular press access to the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant has been limited to the November 12-13 tour, freelance journalist Tomohiko Suzuki gained the ultimate inside story as a plant worker.
Suzuki was hired through a Toshiba sub-contractor and assigned a job related to reprocessing contaminated water. He worked from July 13 to August 22, until his true identity was revealed. His article “Collecting Disposable Workers” in the August 1 issue of News Post Seven magazine is among the riveting stories of his Fukushima experience.
Undercover journalist turned virtual whistle-blower, his unprecedented reporting revealed truths about the dangers and health risks facing the workers, and the clamp down on media coverage. His revelations about the “Fukushima 50” (first recovery workers) confirmed the hardships and astounding risks they experienced in the midst of crisis and employer chaos.
*Suzuki will draw attention to the involvement of yakuza in the nuclear power industry, a topic he addresses in his latest book, “Yakuza and Nuclear Power Plants — Yakuza to Genpatsu” — which will be in the book stores in mid December.
He is no stranger to risk and conflict. With a specialty in Japan’s crime syndicates, Suzuki has covered the yakuza throughout his career. Before turning freelance he worked for the crime-focused, online monthly magazine, Jitsuwa Jidai and Jitsuwa Jidai Bull. His three books also delve into the inner workings of the yakuza world.
Sauteed Spanish mackerel (Sawara) with Meuniere Sauce, Seasonal Salad
“Absolutely no progress is being made” towards the final resolution of the crisis, Suzuki told reporters at a Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Japan news conference on Dec. 15. Suzuki, 55, worked for a Toshiba Corp. subsidiary as a general laborer there from July 13 to Aug. 22, documenting sloppy repair work, companies including plant operator Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO) playing fast and loose with their workers’ radiation doses, and a marked concern for appearances over the safety of employees or the public.
For example, the no-entry zones around the plant — the 20-kilometer radius exclusion zone and the extension covering most of the village of Iitate and other municipalities — have more to do with convenience that actual safety, Suzuki says.“(Nuclear) technology experts I’ve spoken to say that there are people living in areas where no one should be. It’s almost as though they’re living inside a nuclear plant,” says Suzuki. Based on this and his own radiation readings, he believes the 80-kilometer-radius evacuation advisory issued by the United States government after the meltdowns was “about right,” adding that the government probably decided on the current no-go zones to avoid the immense task of evacuating larger cities like Iwaki and Fukushima.
The situation at the plant itself is no better, where he says much of the work is simply “for show,” fraught with corporate jealousies and secretiveness and “completely different” from the “all-Japan” cooperative effort being presented by the government.
“Reactor makers Toshiba and Hitachi (brought in to help resolve the crisis) each have their own technology, and they don’t talk to each other. Toshiba doesn’t tell Hitachi what it’s doing, and Hitachi doesn’t tell Toshiba what it’s doing.”
Meanwhile, despite there being no concrete data on the state of the reactor cores, claims by the government and TEPCO that the disaster is under control and that the reactors are on-schedule for a cold shutdown by the year’s end have promoted a breakneck work schedule, leading to shoddy repairs and habitual disregard for worker safety, he said.“Working at Fukushima is equivalent to being given an order to die,” Suzuki quoted one nuclear-related company source as saying. He says plant workers regularly manipulate their radiation readings by reversing their dosimeters or putting them in their socks, giving them an extra 10 to 30 minutes on-site before they reach their daily dosage limit. In extreme cases, Suzuki said, workers even leave the radiation meters in their dormitories.
According to Suzuki, TEPCO and the subcontractors at the plant never explicitly tell the workers to take these measures. Instead the workers are simply assigned projects that would be impossible to complete on time without manipulating the dosage numbers, and whether through a sense of duty or fear of being fired, the workers never complain.
Furthermore, the daily radiation screenings are “essentially an act,” with the detector passed too quickly over each worker, while “the line to the buzzer that is supposed to sound when there’s a problem has been cut,” Suzuki said.Meanwhile much of the work — like road repairs — is purely cosmetic, and projects directly related to cleaning up the crisis such as decontaminating water — which Suzuki was involved in — are rife with cut corners, including the use of plastic piping likely to freeze and crack in the winter.
“We are seeing many problems stemming from the shoddy, rushed work at the power plant,” Suzuki says.
Despite the lack of progress and cavalier attitude to safety, Suzuki claims the cold shutdown schedule has essentially choked off any new ideas. The crisis is officially under control and the budget for dealing with it has been cut drastically, and many Hitachi and Toshiba engineers that have presented new solutions have been told there is simply no money to try them.In sum, Suzuki says what he saw (and photographed with a pinhole camera hidden in his watch) proves the real work to overcome the Fukushima disaster “is just beginning.” He lost his own inside look at that work after it was discovered he was a journalist, though officially he was fired because his commute to work was too long.
“The Japanese media have turned away from this issue,” he laments, though the story is far from over. (By Robert Irvine, Staff Writer)
A book by Tomohiko Suzuki detailing many of his experiences at the plant and connections between yakuza crime syndicates and the nuclear industry, titled “Yakuza to genpatsu” (the yakuza and nuclear power), was published by Bungei Shunju on Dec. 15.
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 10% 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 savory 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.
© 2011 AFP