Seiji Sasa hits the train station in this northern Japanese city before dawn most mornings to prowl for homeless men. He isn't a social worker. He's a recruiter. The men in Sendai Station are potential laborers that Sasa can dispatch to contractors in Japan's nuclear disaster zone for a bounty of $100 a head.
"This is how labor recruiters like me come in every day," Sasa says, as he strides past men sleeping on cardboard and clutching at their coats against the early winter cold.
It's also how Japan finds people willing to accept minimum wage for one of the most undesirable jobs in the industrialized world: working on the $35 billion, taxpayer-funded effort to clean up radioactive fallout across an area of northern Japan larger than Hong Kong.
Almost three years ago, a massive earthquake and tsunami leveled villages across Japan's northeast coast and set off multiple meltdowns at the Fukushima nuclear plant. Today, the most ambitious radiation clean-up ever attempted is running behind schedule. The effort is being dogged by both a lack of oversight and a shortage of workers, according to a Reuters analysis of contracts and interviews with dozens of those involved.
To some this may be a disgrace since no one is being held accountable for the lack of rapid results of the clean up. Radiation levels detected from NOAA are at an all time high on the west coast. This event was rated a 7 on a scale of 1 to 7 according to the International Nuclear Event Scale.
Many fish that are currently being caught off the coast of California are found to have radiation poisoning. Is any seafood caught off the Pacific Ocean even trustworthy anymore? You be the judge.