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The Yakuza’s Cleanup Crew: It’s Not What You Think But Still Alarming

Orga­nized crim­i­nal net­works could be thought of as a coven of keep­ers of well guard­ed secrets. Pow­er­ful, prof­itable well guard­ed secrets. The orga­nized “sys­tem” works because only “need to know” peo­ple know about it. It’s like Sci­en­tol­ogy, minus the actu­al Sci­en­tol­ogy. That’s sort of how mil­i­taries and offi­cial­ly [1] or unof­fi­cial­ly [2]:

The Dai­ly Beast
The Death and Lega­cy of Yakuza Boss ‘Mr. Goril­la’

For years Yoshi­nori Watan­abe (aka ‘Mr. Goril­la’) ran Japan’s most pow­er­ful and suc­cess­ful yakuza group. Jake Adel­stein on his mys­te­ri­ous death over the weekend—and his lega­cy of mod­ern and ruth­less man­age­ment of the crime syn­di­cate.
Dec 3, 2012 5:54 PM EST
Jake Adel­stein

Watan­abe was found col­lapsed at his home in Kobe on Sat­ur­day, by his fam­i­ly; his death was con­firmed the same day. A memo­r­i­al ser­vice was held for him Mon­day. The cause of death is unknown, but he alleged­ly had been in poor health for years.

Watan­abe became the fifth head of the Yam­aguchi-gumi in 1989 after a four-year gang war between the Yam­aguchi-gumi and the Ichi­wa-kai, which had split off from the main group. Watan­abe, in a move to encour­age Ichi­wa-kai mem­bers to return to the fold, is cred­it­ed with intro­duc­ing a pen­sion plan to the Yam­aguchi-gumi that promised to take care of retired “employ­ees,” much like major Japan­ese cor­po­ra­tions. Watan­abe was a high­ly intel­li­gent gang­ster, but because of his slight­ly simi­an facial fea­tures, he was known amongst some police offi­cers and some yakuza affec­tion­ate­ly as “Mr. Goril­la”.

Watan­abe was a charis­mat­ic leader and a good busi­ness­man. By keep­ing the asso­ci­a­tion dues low and through aggres­sive gang wars and lever­aged peace treaties with rival gangs, he expand­ed the orga­ni­za­tion to become Japan’s largest orga­nized crime group; by 2004, the Yam­aguchi-gumi head­quar­ters was col­lect­ing near­ly $25 mil­lion per year in asso­ci­a­tion dues alone, accord­ing to police files. In the book The Busi­ness Man­age­ment Meth­ods of the Yam­aguchi-gumi (2005), by yakuza expert Atsushi Mizoguchi, Watan­abe suc­cinct­ly explains the secret of his orga­nized crime man­age­ment: “Absolute Uni­ty. Retal­i­a­tion. Silence. Appro­pri­ate rewards and pun­ish­ments, and judi­cious use of vio­lence.”

How­ev­er, dur­ing his reign, prob­lems also emerged. Anti-yakuza leg­is­la­tion went on the books (1992) and legal prece­dents were set that grad­u­al­ly forced the yakuza under­ground. In a civ­il law­suit over the shoot­ing death of a police­man in a gang con­flict that involved the Yam­aguchi-gumi, Watan­abe was effec­tive­ly ordered by Japan’s Supreme Count to pay dam­ages of about 80 mil­lion yen in 2004. This was the first time the courts rec­og­nized a Yakuza boss’s “employ­er lia­bil­i­ty.”

...

Watan­abe was a folk hero in Kobe, the town where he died, after orga­niz­ing relief efforts and pro­vid­ing food, water, and essen­tial sup­plies to the locals after the Great Han­shin Earth­quake in Jan­u­ary of 1995.

Under Watanabe’s suc­ces­sor, Shi­nobu Tsukasa, the Yam­aguchi-gumi absorbed the Tokyo-based Kokusui-kai in 2005, giv­ing them a strong base in east­ern Japan. By 2007 the Yam­aguchi-gumi had effec­tive­ly put the Ina­gawa-kai under their umbrel­la, mak­ing them the Wal­mart of Japan­ese orga­nized crime with more than half of the total yakuza (79,000) being under their con­trol.

Note the ref­er­ences to the Yam­aguchi-guchi’s pen­sion plan for its “employ­ees” as well as the “employ­er lia­bil­i­ty” legal rul­ing [3] that forced the Yam­aguch-guchi clan to pay a fine in 2005 after one of its “employ­ees” killed a police offi­cer. The yakuza­’s employ­ment efforts will be high­ly rel­e­vant in excerpts below. Their dis­as­ter relief efforts are also going to be high­light­ed. As evi­denced by the yakuza­’s post-earth­quake/t­sunami/nu­clear melt­down actions, the yakuza are a lot like a cor­rupt polit­i­cal par­ty [4] in [5] many [6] ways [7] but one dif­fer­ence is that the yakuza­’s awful attempts at pop­ulist folksi­ness actu­al­ly involve help­ing peo­ple some­times [8]:

The Dai­ly Beast
Yakuza to the Res­cue
Even Japan’s infa­mous mafia groups are help­ing out with the relief efforts and show­ing a strain of civic duty. Jake Adel­stein reports on why the police don’t want you to know about it.

Mar 18, 2011 5:00 AM EDT
Jake Adel­stein

The worst of times some­times brings out the best in peo­ple, even in Japan’s “losers” a.k.a. the Japan­ese mafia, the yakuza. Hours after the first shock waves hit, two of the largest crime groups went into action, open­ing their offices to those strand­ed in Tokyo, and ship­ping food, water, and blan­kets to the dev­as­tat­ed areas in two-ton trucks and what­ev­er vehi­cles they could get mov­ing. The day after the earth­quake the Ina­gawa-kai (the third largest orga­nized crime group in Japan which was found­ed in 1948) sent twen­ty-five four-ton trucks filled with paper dia­pers, instant ramen, bat­ter­ies, flash­lights, drinks, and the essen­tials of dai­ly life to the Tohoku region. An exec­u­tive in Sumiyoshi-kai, the sec­ond-largest crime group, even offered refuge to mem­bers of the for­eign community—something unheard of in a still slight­ly xeno­pho­bic nation, espe­cial­ly amongst the right-wing yakuza. The Yam­aguchi-gumi, Japan’s largest crime group, under the lead­er­ship of Tadashi Irie, has also opened its offices across the coun­try to the pub­lic and been send­ing truck­loads of sup­plies, but very qui­et­ly and with­out any fan­fare.

The Ina­gawa-kai has been the most active because it has strong roots in the areas hit. It has sev­er­al “blocks” or region­al groups. Between mid­night on March 12th and the ear­ly morn­ing of March 13th, the Ina­gawa-kai Tokyo block car­ried 50 tons of sup­plies to Hitachi­na­ka City Hall (Hitachi­na­ka City, Ibara­ki Pre­fec­ture) and dropped them off, care­ful not to men­tion their yakuza affil­i­a­tion so that the dona­tions weren’t reject­ed. This was the begin­ning of their human­i­tar­i­an efforts. Sup­plies includ­ed cup ramen, bean sprouts, paper dia­pers, tea and drink­ing water. The dri­ve from Tokyo took them twelve hours. They went through back roads to get there. The Kana­gawa Block of the Ina­gawa-kai, has sent 70 trucks to the Ibara­ki and Fukushi­ma areas to drop off sup­plies in areas with high radi­a­tions lev­els. They did­n’t keep track of how many tons of sup­plies they moved. The Ina­gawa-kai as a whole has moved over 100 tons of sup­plies to the Tohoku region. They have been going into radi­at­ed areas with­out any pro­tec­tion or potas­si­um iodide.

The Yam­aguchi-gumi mem­ber I spoke with said sim­ply, “Please don’t say any more than we are doing our best to help. Right now, no one wants to be asso­ci­at­ed with us and we’d hate to have our dona­tions reject­ed out of hand.”

To those not famil­iar with the yakuza, it may come as a shock to hear of their phil­an­thropy, but this is not the first time that they have dis­played a human­i­tar­i­an impulse. In 1995, after the Kobe earth­quake, the Yam­aguchi-gumi was one of the most respon­sive forces on the ground, quick­ly get­ting sup­plies to the affect­ed areas and dis­trib­ut­ing them to the local peo­ple. Admit­ted­ly, much of those sup­plies were paid with by mon­ey from years of shak­ing down the peo­ple in the area, and they were cer­tain­ly not unaware of the pub­lic rela­tions factor—but no one can deny that they were help­ful when peo­ple need­ed aid—as they are this time as well.

It may seem puz­zling that the yakuza, which are orga­nized crime groups, deriv­ing their prin­ci­pal rev­enue streams from ille­gal activ­i­ties, such as col­lect­ing pro­tec­tion mon­ey, black­mail, extor­tion, and fraud would have any civic nature at all. How­ev­er, in Japan since the post-war peri­od they have always played a role in keep­ing the peace. Accord­ing to Robert Whiting’s Tokyo Under­world and Tim Weiner’s Lega­cy of Ash­es, the US gov­ern­ment even bought the ser­vices of one infa­mous yakuza fix­er, Yoshio Kodama, to keep Japan from going com­mu­nist and main­tain order. Kodama would lat­er put up the fund­ing to cre­ate the Lib­er­al Demo­c­rat Par­ty of Japan that ruled the coun­try for over fifty years. When Pres­i­dent Oba­ma vis­it­ed Japan last year, the police con­tact­ed the heads of all Tokyo yakuza groups and asked them to behave them­selves and make sure there were no prob­lems.
...

Inter­est­ing fun-fact: The “yakuza fixer”/power-broker ref­er­enced above, Yoshio Kodama, was the one-time prison cell mate of for­mer prime min­is­ter Nobo­suke Kishi for war crimes [9](Kishi is the grand­fa­ther of cur­rent prime min­is­ter Shin­zo Abe [10]). Kodama was also a backer of [11] gang­ster [12]/oli­garch [13]/sushi [14] king [15]/new mes­si­ah [16] rev­erend Sun Myung Moon. It’s a small world at the top. The glue that seems to hold the world at the togeth­er appears to be high­ly prof­itable and pow­er­ful secre­cy and lots of mon­ey. Curi­ous­ly, though, an large num­ber of those pow­er­ful secrets aren’t real­ly very secret [17]:

The Dai­ly Beast
Japan’s Jus­tice Min­is­ter to Resign Over Yakuza Ties
It’s almost too per­fect: Japan’s new min­is­ter of jus­tice is about to resign over his ties to a lead­ing yakuza (mafia) orga­ni­za­tion. Jake Adel­stein reports on the lat­est polit­i­cal scandal—and just what the yakuza do for the politi­cians.

Oct 18, 2012 11:30 PM EDT
Jake Adel­stein

It seems like Japan­ese politi­cians just can’t get enough of the yakuza.

It was report­ed last week that the new­ly appoint­ed Min­is­ter of Jus­tice Keishu Tana­ka (Demo­c­ra­t­ic Par­ty of Japan) had strong ties to the Japan­ese mafia. This Thurs­day, Japan’s respect­ed week­ly news mag­a­zine, Shukan Bun­shun, ran an arti­cle on how Japan’s Min­is­ter of Finance Kori­ki Joji­ma, was sup­port­ed by a yakuza front com­pa­ny dur­ing his elec­tion cam­paign. Min­is­ter Tana­ka is expect­ed to resign Fri­day (Japan time). If he does, he’ll be the sec­ond Demo­c­ra­t­ic Par­ty of Japan (DPJ) appoint­ed cab­i­net min­is­ter since 2009 to resign after expo­sure of yakuza ties. Not a good thing for the DPJ, which came to pow­er as “the clean par­ty.”

Last Thurs­day the week­ly mag­a­zine Shukan Shin­cho was the first to write that Min­is­ter Tana­ka had long run­ning ties to the Ina­gawa-kai. The Ina­gawa-kai, Japan’s third-largest crime group, was found­ed as Ina­gawa-Kogyo cir­ca 1948 and their cur­rent head­quar­ters are across the street from the Ritz Carl­ton Tokyo; they have 10,000 mem­bers. Accord­ing to the police, since 2007 the group has been under the umbrel­la of the Yam­aguchi-gumi, the largest yakuza group in the coun­try, with 39,000 mem­bers. Kazuo Uchi­bori, the leader of the Ina­gawa-kai, was arrest­ed this month on mon­ey-laun­der­ing charges. The Tokyo Prosecutor’s Office (TPO) has not yet decid­ed whether to pros­e­cute him. The TPO is also part of the Min­istry of Jus­tice, head­ed by Mr. Tana­ka.

The Shin­cho arti­cle alleges Tana­ka has long relied on the sup­port of the Ina­gawa-kai in his polit­i­cal and busi­ness deal­ings and had par­tic­i­pat­ed in many Ina­gawa-kai events—including serv­ing as a match­mak­er (nakou­do) at the wed­ding of an under­boss. The piece also states that the Ina­gawa-kai sup­pressed scan­dalous rumors about Tanaka’s life, involv­ing a tawdry love affair. The under­boss respon­si­ble for han­dling the neg­a­tive PR mat­ters alleged­ly told would-be extor­tion­ists, “Tana­ka was the match­mak­er at my wed­ding. Save my face—forgive and for­get about it.”

The Dai­ly Beast spoke with Ina­gawa-kai mem­bers and police offi­cers from Kana­gawa Pre­fec­ture who con­firmed that Tana­ka did indeed have strong ties to the Ina­gawa-kai, until at least two years ago.

Tana­ka has admit­ted to attend­ing Ina­gawa-kai events in the past, includ­ing the wed­ding, but has denied the rest of the alle­ga­tions.

Sen. Sho­ji Nishi­da who has inves­ti­gat­ed and writ­ten about the ties of some DPJ mem­bers to the mob in WILL mag­a­zine (Novem­ber 2011) says, “Tana­ka is the 4th DPJ-coali­tion-appoint­ed min­is­ter with yakuza ties. I won­der if they even screen the peo­ple they put in cab­i­net posi­tions. The min­is­ter of Jus­tice is sup­posed to be the watch­dog of the law, not a match­mak­er for the yakuza. Putting a yakuza asso­ciate in charge of Japan’s crim­i­nal-jus­tice sys­tem ... that’s out­ra­geous. Now I can under­stand why the Yam­aguchi-gumi endorsed their par­ty.”

...

It should be point­ed out that the DPJ coali­tion has not offi­cial­ly endorsed any orga­nized crime group in Japan. It may very well be a uni­lat­er­al rela­tion­ship. The DPJ has con­sis­tent­ly opposed pass­ing a Crim­i­nal Con­spir­a­cy Law, leg­is­la­tion that would be fatal to Japan’s semi-legit­i­mate orga­nized-crime groups. It would make sense for the mob to sup­port their own inter­ests.

It was not that unusu­al for Japan­ese politi­cians to have yakuza ties in the past. In the good old days, yakuza them­selves even served as min­is­ters of the Japan­ese gov­ern­ment. The grand­fa­ther of ex-prime min­is­ter Junichi­ro Koizu­mi (Lib­er­al Demo­c­ra­t­ic Par­ty), Mata­jiro Koizu­mi, was a mem­ber of a yakuza group lat­er absorbed into the Ina­gawa-kai. Dur­ing his term serv­ing as the min­is­ter of gen­er­al affairs (1929–1931), due to his ornate body art, Mata­jiro Koizu­mi was fond­ly known as “Irezu­mi Dai­jin” or “the tat­tooed min­is­ter.”

...

It is increas­ing­ly like­ly that at least Keishu Tana­ka will be forced to resign from office due to his past role as a “yakuza match­mak­er.” His res­ig­na­tion is unlike­ly to be the end of—what so far—has been a real­ly great rela­tion­ship for the Japan­ese polit­i­cal par­ties and the underworld—a match made in heav­en. For Japan’s polit­i­cal par­ties the yakuza are a nec­es­sary evil. When you need to get out the vote, squelch pos­si­ble polit­i­cal scandals—or cre­ate them, nobody does the job quite as well as Japan’s mafia.

The embrace of the yakuza or any mafia out­fit as a “nec­es­sary evil” by politi­cians is [18] not [19] a sur­pris­ing [20] glob­al [21] phe­nom­e­na [22]. If you go deep enough into the world of deep state pow­er pol­i­tics you’ll end up above the law. Nor­mal laws no longer [23] apply [24] in those envi­ron­ments.

Smol­der­ing piles of high­ly radioac­tive waste. No roof. Big prob­lem.
One promi­nent excep­tion to exemp­tion from nor­mal laws for deep state actors would be the laws of physics. They’re just real­ly hard to get around. For exam­ple, if an earthquake/tsunami hap­pens to trig­ger a pow­er­ful enough explo­sion to blow its roof off [25] AND the build­ing hap­pens to con­tain over a thou­sand spent nuclear fuel rods [26], the laws of physics strong sug­gest that you’re going to have a real­ly hard time clean­ing that up. And those dif­fi­cul­ties are going to last for a very long time [27]:

Asahi
High radi­a­tion bars decom­mis­sion­ing of Fukushi­ma plant
Feb­ru­ary 21, 2013

By HISASHI HATTORI/ Senior Staff Writer

Prepa­ra­tions for the mam­moth task of decom­mis­sion­ing crip­pled reac­tors at the Fukushi­ma No. 1 nuclear pow­er plant are being stymied by con­tin­ued high lev­els of radi­a­tion from the triple melt­downs there two years ago.

Tokyo Elec­tric Pow­er Co., oper­a­tor of the plant, has had to install more tanks to store radioac­tive water, which con­tin­ues to swell by sev­er­al hun­dreds of tons dai­ly.

Asahi Shim­bun reporters entered the No. 4 reac­tor build­ing on Feb. 20, accom­pa­nied by inspec­tors from the sec­re­tari­at of the Nuclear Reg­u­la­tion Author­i­ty, to assess the sit­u­a­tion.

The reac­tor was offline for reg­u­lar inspec­tions when the magnitude‑9.0 Great East Japan Earth­quake struck on March 11, 2011, gen­er­at­ing tow­er­ing tsuna­mi that swamped the plant.

In the days that fol­lowed, a hydro­gen explo­sion tore through the No. 4 reac­tor build­ing. It raised alarm world­wide that the stor­age pool for spent nuclear fuel in the build­ing might lose its water through evap­o­ra­tion, result­ing in the dis­charge of volu­mi­nous amounts of radioac­tive sub­stances.

That was nar­row­ly avert­ed.

Most of the debris, such as steel frames man­gled in the explo­sion, have been removed from the roof­less top floor of the reac­tor build­ing, but radi­a­tion lev­els remain high.

“Here, the read­ing is 200 microsiev­erts per hour,” an inspec­tor said. “But it is 1,000 microsiev­erts on the north side close to the No. 3 reac­tor build­ing. Keep your dis­tance.”

A shroud has been placed over the spent fuel stor­age pool on the top floor. The water tem­per­a­ture was about 20 degrees. The water, seen through an open­ing, was mud­dy and brown. The fuel inside the pool was not vis­i­ble.

Work­ers were installing a shroud for the No. 4 reac­tor build­ing on the south side of the build­ing. It will be equipped with a crane to remove spent fuel from the stor­age pool.

The foun­da­tion work was already com­plet­ed, and steel frames were being assem­bled.

TEPCO intends to mount a deter­mined effort to remove spent fuel from the stor­age pool in Novem­ber. Two fuel assem­blies were removed on a tri­al basis in July.

...

Ever-increas­ing radioac­tive water has become a key chal­lenge for TEPCO.

Ground­wa­ter is flow­ing into reac­tor build­ings, where it mix­es with water used to cool melt­ed fuel inside the No. 1, No. 2 and No. 3 reac­tors.

The amount of radioac­tive water stored in tanks and oth­er facil­i­ties rose to 230,000 tons this month, up from 10,000 tons in July 2011.

In addi­tion, an esti­mat­ed 100,000 tons of water have accu­mu­lat­ed in the base­ments of build­ings.

Cur­rent­ly, there are near­ly 500 stor­age tanks on the plant premis­es, many as tall as three-sto­ry build­ings. TEPCO plans to add more by 2015 when it expects to have to store 700,000 tons of radioac­tive water.

...

Prepa­ra­tions for decom­mis­sion­ing have only recent­ly begun. Decom­mis­sion­ing will not be com­plet­ed for the next 30 to 40 years under a plan drawn up by the gov­ern­ment and TEPCO.

...

Cur­rent­ly, work­ers can­not eas­i­ly approach the three reac­tor build­ings where the melt­downs occurred due to high radi­a­tion lev­els. They have been remov­ing debris, such as con­crete blocks, on the plant premis­es.

Work to remove melt­ed fuel from the three reac­tors is expect­ed to begin by around 2022. Fuel is believed to be scat­tered with­in the pres­sure ves­sels, con­tain­ment ves­sels or pip­ing sys­tems, but exact loca­tions remain unclear.

In addi­tion, TEPCO has yet to iden­ti­fy where radioac­tive water has been leak­ing from the dam­aged con­tain­ment ves­sels. The con­tain­ment ves­sels must be filled with water before melt­ed fuel is removed.

In Decem­ber, TEPCO sent a remote-con­trolled robot near the pres­sure sup­pres­sion cham­ber in the No. 2 reac­tor build­ing to find out where water was leak­ing. But the mis­sion failed when the robot lost its bal­ance and got stuck.

New tech­nolo­gies must be devel­oped for decom­mis­sion­ing, but man­u­fac­tur­ers and gen­er­al con­trac­tors have shown lit­tle enthu­si­asm.

The com­pa­nies fear they will not be able to recov­er their invest­ments because the tech­nolo­gies would have lit­tle prac­ti­cal appli­ca­tion oth­er than for the Fukushi­ma plant.

Yep, the nuclear plant that had its roof blown off two years ago by an earth­quake/t­suna­mi-induced hydro­gen explo­sion is going to take 30–40 years to decon­t­a­m­i­nate. And it’s still very very radioac­tive. And the build­ing is still leak­ing very very radioac­tive water [28]. Thanks “Laws of Physics”!

Addi­tion­al­ly, the arti­cle ends by inform­ing us that fix­ing the sit­u­a­tion will require the devel­op­ment of new tech­nolo­gies. But busi­ness­es aren’t inter­est­ed in devel­op­ing the tech­nolo­gies because the anti-nuclear cat­a­stro­phe tech­nolo­gies won’t have obvi­ous appli­ca­tions beyond the still unfold­ing nuclear disaster...even though the suc­cess­ful cleanup of that nuclear waste is required for the long-term health of Japan and the bios­phere at large. As some might say, “cor­po­ra­tions are peo­ple”. And like peo­ple, cor­po­ra­tions can be mind-numb­ing­ly short­sight­ed and lack even a basic sense of self-preser­va­tion. Thanks “The Mar­ket”!

Help Want­ed: Smol­der­ing piles of high­ly radioac­tive waste. No roof. Big prob­lem.
For­tu­nate­ly, while new tech­nolo­gies may be at hand, there are strong indi­ca­tions that find­ing new peo­ple to work on the cleanup efforts won’t be as much of an issue. And there’s prob­a­bly going to be a lot of new work­ers required for the cleanup giv­en time-frame involved (30–40 years) and oth­er [29] staffing com­pli­ca­tions [30].

Unfor­tu­nate­ly, that pool of avail­able man­pow­er appears to be due, in part, to orga­nized crime boss­es try­ing to secure nuclear cleanup con­tracts. Let’s hope there aren’t any “employ­er lia­bil­i­ty” cas­es relat­ed to the Fukushi­ma cleanup effort for the next few decades [31]:

Japan­ese under­world tries to cash in on tsuna­mi clean-up

The yakuza is turn­ing its atten­tion from help­ing dis­as­ter vic­tims to win­ning con­tracts for the mas­sive rebuild­ing effort

Justin McCur­ry in Tokyo
The Guardian, Wednes­day 15 June 2011 09.44 EDT

In the after­math of the dev­as­tat­ing March tsuna­mi, Japan’s under­world made a rare dis­play of phil­an­thropy, hand­ing out emer­gency sup­plies to sur­vivors, some­times days before aid agen­cies arrived.

Three months lat­er, how­ev­er, the yakuza appears to have dis­pensed with largesse and is instead hop­ing to cash in on the daunt­ing clean-up effort in dozens of ruined towns and vil­lages.

The gov­ern­ment and police fear they are los­ing the bat­tle to pre­vent crime syn­di­cates from win­ning lucra­tive con­tracts to remove mil­lions of tonnes of debris left in the tsunami’s wake, includ­ing con­t­a­m­i­nat­ed rub­ble near the Fukushi­ma Dai­ichi nuclear pow­er plant that many firms are reluc­tant to han­dle.

The dis­as­ter cre­at­ed almost 24m tonnes of debris in the three hard­est-hit pre­fec­tures, Fukushi­ma, Miya­gi and Iwate, accord­ing to the envi­ron­ment min­istry. So far, just over 5m tonnes – or 22% – has been removed.

Those lin­ing up to prof­it from the clear­ance oper­a­tion, which is expect­ed to take three years, include home­grown gangs and Chi­nese crime syn­di­cates, accord­ing to the June edi­tion of Sen­taku, a respect­ed polit­i­cal and eco­nom­ic affairs mag­a­zine.

The mag­a­zine recounts the sto­ry of a lead­ing Chi­nese gang­ster who, accom­pa­nied by a nation­al politi­cian, vis­it­ed the may­or of Minami­so­ma – a town near Fukushi­ma Dai­ichi, where a par­tial evac­u­a­tion order is in place – hop­ing to win con­tracts to remove radioac­tive waste that, accord­ing to police, could have end­ed up at dis­pos­al sites in Chi­na.

...

“The yakuza are try­ing to posi­tion them­selves to gain con­tracts for their con­struc­tion com­pa­nies for the mas­sive rebuild­ing that will come.”

...

Offi­cials have said that the removal of debris should come under cen­tral gov­ern­ment con­trol, and the names of “anti­so­cial” indi­vid­u­als have been for­ward­ed to local author­i­ties.

But giv­en the sheer quan­ti­ty of debris, and the man­pow­er required to remove and dis­pose of it, few believe Japan’s most pow­er­ful yakuza gangs will be kept out alto­geth­er.

...

“The nexus of mas­sive con­struc­tion projects, bureau­crats, politi­cians, busi­ness­men and yakuza are as reveal­ing about Japan as they are about Italy and Rus­sia,” Jeff Kingston, direc­tor of Asian stud­ies at Tem­ple Uni­ver­si­ty in Tokyo, wrote in his recent book, Con­tem­po­rary Japan.

...

So just months after the Fukushi­ma dis­as­ter (when the above arti­cle was writ­ten), orga­nized crime groups were angling to get a share of the mas­sive cleanup pro­ceeds. And they were already so infused into construction/government con­tract sec­tors of the econ­o­my that their involve­ment was vir­tu­al­ly guar­an­teed. And that cleanup effort is sched­uled to take decades and will involve the han­dling of large amounts of high­ly radioac­tive mate­r­i­al. And the mafia appears to be inter­est­ed in the high­ly radioac­tive mate­r­i­al dis­pos­al con­tracts. AND hard­ly any­one appears to be sur­prised or per­turbed by this devel­op­ment because the yakuza has sup­ply­ing man­pow­er to Japan’s nuclear pow­er indus­try for a long time. Major cat­a­stro­phes often have a sud­den “quick” phase of dis­as­ter (the earthquake/tsunami) fol­lowed by long, slow rolling phase of sec­ondary dis­as­ters that emerge in the wake of the cat­a­stro­phe. Orga­nized crim­i­nal out­fits infil­trat­ing pow­er­ful insti­tu­tions is an exam­ple of the larg­er pat­tern of endem­ic sys­temic cor­rup­tion and endem­ic sys­temic cor­rup­tion is a glob­al phe­nom­e­na. Endem­ic sys­temic cor­rup­tion is also a slow motion dis­as­ter. And full-spec­trum too [32]:

The Tele­graph
How the Yakuza went nuclear
What real­ly went wrong at the Fukushi­ma plant? One under­cov­er reporter risked his life to find out

By Jake Adel­stein

11:30AM GMT 21 Feb 2012

On March 11 2011, at 2:46pm, a 9.0 mag­ni­tude earth­quake struck Japan. The earth­quake, fol­lowed by a colos­sal tsuna­mi, dev­as­tat­ed the nation, togeth­er killing over 10,000 peo­ple. The earth­quake also trig­gered the start of a triple nuclear melt­down at the Fukushi­ma Nuclear Pow­er Plant, run by Tokyo Elec­tric Pow­er Com­pa­ny (Tep­co). Of the three reac­tors that melt­ed down, one was near­ly 40 years old and should have been decom­mis­sioned two decades ago. The cool­ing pipes, “the veins and arter­ies of the old nuclear reac­tors”, which cir­cu­lat­ed flu­id to keep the core tem­per­a­ture down, rup­tured.

Approx­i­mate­ly 40 min­utes after the shocks, the tsuna­mi reached the pow­er plant and knocked out the elec­tri­cal sys­tems. Japan’s Nuclear Indus­tri­al Safe­ty Agency (Nisa) had warned Tep­co about safe­ty vio­la­tions and prob­lems at the plant days before the earth­quake; they’d been warned about the pos­si­bil­i­ty of a tsuna­mi hit­ting the plant for years.

The denials began almost imme­di­ate­ly. “There has been no melt­down,” gov­ern­ment spokesman Yukio Edano intoned in the days after March 11. “It was an unfore­see­able dis­as­ter,” Tepco’s then pres­i­dent Masa­ta­ka Shimizu chimed in. As we now know, the melt­down was already tak­ing place. And the dis­as­ter was far from unfore­see­able.

Tep­co has long been a scan­dal-rid­den com­pa­ny, caught time and time again cov­er­ing up data on safe­ty laps­es at their pow­er plants, or doc­tor­ing film footage which showed fis­sures in pipes. How was the com­pa­ny able to get away with such long-stand­ing behav­iour? Accord­ing to an explo­sive book recent­ly pub­lished in Japan, they owe it to what the author, Tomo­hiko Suzu­ki, calls “Japan’s nuclear mafia… A con­glom­er­a­tion of cor­rupt politi­cians and bureau­crats, the shady nuclear indus­try, their lob­by­ists…” And at the cen­tre of it all stands Japan’s actu­al mafia: the yakuza.

It might sur­prise the West­ern read­er that gang­sters are involved in Japan’s nuclear indus­try and even more that they would risk their lives in a nuclear cri­sis. But the yakuza roots in Japan­ese soci­ety are very deep. In fact, they were some of the first respon­ders after the earth­quake, pro­vid­ing food and sup­plies to the dev­as­tat­ed area and patrolling the streets to make sure no loot­ing occurred.

...

“Almost all nuclear pow­er plants that are built in Japan are built tak­ing the risk that the work­ers may well be exposed to large amounts of radi­a­tion,” says Suzu­ki. “That they will get sick, they will die ear­ly, or they will die on the job. And the peo­ple bring­ing the work­ers to the plants and also doing the con­struc­tion are often yakuza.” Suzu­ki says he’s met over 1,000 yakuza in his career as an inves­tiga­tive jour­nal­ist and for­mer edi­tor of yakuza fanzines. For his book, The Yakuza and the Nuclear Indus­try, Suzu­ki went under­cov­er at Fukushi­ma to find first-hand evi­dence of the long-rumoured ties between the nuclear indus­try and the yakuza. First he doc­u­ments how remark­ably easy it was to become a nuclear work­er at Fukushi­ma after the melt­down. After sign­ing up with a legit­i­mate com­pa­ny pro­vid­ing labour, he entered the plant armed only with a wrist­watch with a hid­den cam­era. Work­ing there over sev­er­al months, he quick­ly found yakuza-sup­plied labour, and many for­mer yakuza work­ing on site them­selves.

Suzu­ki dis­cov­ered evi­dence of Tep­co sub­con­trac­tors pay­ing yakuza front com­pa­nies to obtain lucra­tive con­struc­tion con­tracts; of mon­ey des­tined for con­struc­tion work fly­ing into yakuza accounts; and of politi­cians and media being paid to look the oth­er way. More shock­ing, per­haps, were the con­di­tions he says he found inside the plant.

His fel­low work­ers, found Suzu­ki, were a mot­ley crew of home­less, chron­i­cal­ly unem­ployed Japan­ese men, for­mer yakuza, debtors who owed mon­ey to the yakuza, and the men­tal­ly hand­i­capped. Suzu­ki claims the reg­u­lar employ­ees at the plant were often giv­en bet­ter radi­a­tion suits than the yakuza recruits. (Tep­co has admit­ted that there was a short­age of equip­ment in the disaster’s ear­ly days.) The reg­u­lar employ­ees were allowed to pass through sophis­ti­cat­ed radi­a­tion mon­i­tors while the tem­po­rary labour­ers were sim­ply giv­en hand rods to mon­i­tor their radi­a­tion expo­sure.

...

A for­mer yakuza boss tells me that his group has “always” been involved in recruit­ing labour­ers for the nuclear indus­try. “It’s dirty, dan­ger­ous work,” he says, “and the only peo­ple who will do it are home­less, yakuza, or peo­ple so bad­ly in debt that they see no oth­er way to pay it off.” Suzu­ki found peo­ple who’d been threat­ened into work­ing at Fukushi­ma, but oth­ers who’d vol­un­teered. Why? “Of course, if it was a mat­ter of dying today or tomor­row they wouldn’t work there,” he explains. “It’s because it could take 10 years or more for some­one to pos­si­bly die of radi­a­tion excess. It’s like Russ­ian roulette. If you owe enough mon­ey to the yakuza, work­ing at a nuclear plant is a safer bet. Wouldn’t you rather take a chance at dying 10 years lat­er than being stabbed to death now?” (Suzuki’s own feel­ing was that the effects of low-lev­el radi­a­tion are still unknown and that, as a drinker and smok­er, he’s prob­a­bly no more like­ly to get can­cer than he was before.)

...

The sit­u­a­tion at Fukushi­ma is still dire. Num­ber-two reac­tor con­tin­ues to heat up, and appears to be out of con­trol. Rolling black­outs are a reg­u­lar occur­rence. Nuclear reac­tors are being shut down, one by one, all over Japan. Mean­while, there is talk that Tep­co will be nation­alised and its top exec­u­tives are under inves­ti­ga­tion for crim­i­nal neg­li­gence, in rela­tion to the 3/11 dis­as­ter. As for the yakuza, the police are begin­ning to inves­ti­gate their front com­pa­nies more close­ly. “Yakuza may be a plague on soci­ety,” says Suzu­ki, “but they don’t ruin the lives of hun­dreds of thou­sands of peo­ple and irra­di­ate the plan­et out of sheer greed and incom­pe­tence.” Suzu­ki says he’s had lit­tle trou­ble from the yakuza about his book’s alle­ga­tions. He sus­pects this is because he showed they were pre­pared to risk their lives at Fukushi­ma – he almost made them look good.

Find­ing Good Help is Hard Every­where
The prac­tice of forc­ing debtors to work around nuclear waste isn’t just an incred­i­bly cru­el form of debtors prison, it’s also kind of crazy for all par­ties involved. When you’re pay­ing an orga­ni­za­tion to safe­ly dis­pose of tox­ic waste you have the obvi­ous con­cern that waste will be dis­posed of unsafe­ly. This is a les­son the Ital­ian mafia has [33]a long­time part­ner [34] of both the Vat­i­can and Ital­ian pow­er net­works — taught us in recent years [35]. And when it’s nuclear waste, you have the addi­tion­al con­cern that the mafia might want to dump it in the sea or bury it, or maybe enrich it (imag­ine a mob-bomb. yikes). These are some les­son the Ital­ian mafia has been teach­ing us for decades [36]:

From cocaine to plu­to­ni­um: mafia clan accused of traf­fick­ing nuclear waste

Tom King­ton in Rome
The Guardian, Mon­day 8 Octo­ber 2007

Author­i­ties in Italy are inves­ti­gat­ing a mafia clan accused of traf­fick­ing nuclear waste and try­ing to make plu­to­ni­um.

The ‘Ndrangheta mafia, which gained noto­ri­ety in August for its blood feud killings of six men in Ger­many, is alleged to have made ille­gal ship­ments of radioac­tive waste to Soma­lia, as well as seek­ing the “clan­des­tine pro­duc­tion” of oth­er nuclear mate­r­i­al.

Two of the Cal­abri­an clan’s mem­bers are being inves­ti­gat­ed, along with eight for­mer employ­ees of the state ener­gy research agency Enea.

The eight are sus­pect­ed of pay­ing the mob­sters to take waste off their hands in the 1980s and 1990s. At the time they were based at the agen­cy’s cen­tre at Roton­del­la, a town in Basil­i­ca­ta province in the toe of Italy, which today treats “spe­cial” and “haz­ardous” waste. At oth­er cen­tres, Enea stud­ies nuclear fusion and fis­sion tech­nolo­gies.

The ‘Ndrangheta has been accused by inves­ti­ga­tors of build­ing on its ori­gins as a kid­nap­ping gang to become Europe’s top cocaine importer, thanks to ties to Colom­bian car­tels. But the nuclear accu­sa­tion, if true, would take it into anoth­er league.

An Enea offi­cial who declined to be named denied the accu­sa­tion, say­ing: “Enea has always worked with­in the rules and under strict nation­al and inter­na­tion­al super­vi­sion.”

A mag­is­trate, Francesco Basen­ti­ni, in the city of Poten­za began the inves­ti­ga­tion fol­low­ing oth­ers by mag­is­trates and the leak­ing to the press of the police con­fes­sion of an ‘Ndrangheta turn­coat, detail­ing his role in the alleged waste-dump­ing.

An Enea man­ag­er is said to have paid the clan to get rid of 600 drums of tox­ic and radioac­tive waste from Italy, Switzer­land, France, Ger­many, and the US, the turn­coat claimed, with Soma­lia as the des­ti­na­tion lined up by the traf­fick­ers.

But with only room for 500 drums on a ship wait­ing at the north­ern port of Livorno, 100 drums were secret­ly buried some­where in the south­ern Ital­ian region of Basil­i­ca­ta. Clan mem­bers avoid­ed bury­ing the waste in neigh­bour­ing Cal­abria, said the turn­coat, because of their “love for their home region”, and because they already had too many kid­nap vic­tims hid­den in grot­toes there.

Inves­ti­ga­tors have yet to locate the radioac­tive drums alleged­ly buried in Basil­i­ca­ta — although, in a par­al­lel inves­ti­ga­tion, police are search­ing for drums of non-radioac­tive tox­ic waste they believe were dumped by the ‘Ndrangheta near the Unesco town of Mat­era in Basil­i­ca­ta, famous for its ancient hous­es dug into the rock, the Ansa news agency report­ed yes­ter­day.

Ship­ments to Soma­lia, where the waste was buried after buy­ing off local politi­cians, con­tin­ued into the 1990s, while the mob also became adept at blow­ing up shiploads of waste, includ­ing radioac­tive hos­pi­tal waste, and send­ing them to the sea bed off the Cal­abri­an coast, the turn­coat told inves­ti­ga­tors. Although he made no men­tion of attempt­ed plu­to­ni­um pro­duc­tion, Il Gior­nale news­pa­per wrote that the mob­sters may have planned to sell it to for­eign gov­ern­ments.

...

Ah, won­der­ful: the des­ti­na­tion of choice for the dis­pos­al of nuclear waste by the Ital­ian mafia has been some­where off the coast of Soma­lia. Prob­lem [37] solved [38]! And the most noto­ri­ous of the Ital­ian mafias, the ‘Ndrangheta, appears to be inter­est­ed in plu­to­ni­um pro­duc­tion (plu­to­ni­um pro­duc­tion ambi­tions should­n’t be as much of an issue for the Fukushi­ma dis­as­ter, although not for reas­sur­ing rea­sons [39]).

So do we have to wor­ry about any yakuza with nuclear-traf­fick­ing ambi­tions? Well, giv­en that the yakuza are sort of like an arm of the Japan­ese gov­ern­ment, full-scale nuclear enrich­ment and traf­fick­ing is prob­a­bly not a mas­sive con­cern. It sounds like the yakuza have been play­ing a role in Japan’s nuclear indus­try for decades includ­ing roles involv­ing the han­dling of nuclear mate­r­i­al. There’s got to be some sort of TEP­CO-yakuza infor­mal pro­to­col that’s been devel­oped over the years so indis­crim­i­nate nuclear traf­fick­ing. Nuclear dump­ing, on the oth­er hand, is a real pos­si­bil­i­ty giv­en the scale of radioac­tive mate­r­i­al that’s going to have to be decon­t­a­m­i­nat­ed and moved some­where. Out of sight out of mind lots of prof­it. There’s going to be dump­ing. TEPCO has already engaged in no-longer-secret dumpling [40] so it’s not real­ly a ques­tion of whether or not secret dump­ing of radioac­tive mate­r­i­al will take place but whether or not the yakuza will be doing TEP­CO-approved secret dump­ing or their own “inde­pen­dent” secret dump­ing.

It’s wide­ly pre­sumed that the mafia is going to con­tin­ue to be involved with these nuclear cleanup activ­i­ties and the police appear to lack the resources [41] to iden­ti­fy mob-sup­plied work­ers. It seems like just a mat­ter of time before we get reports of ille­gal dump­ing of nuclear mate­r­i­al by yakuza affil­i­ates and prob­a­ble some non-yakuza affil­i­ates too. Hope­ful­ly that’s not the case. There was an enor­mous amount of offi­cial­ly tolter­at­ed dump­ing of radioac­tive waste into the coun­try­side in the ini­tial after­math based on reports [42]. Nuclear cleanup fraud is where the big mon­ey’s going to be for a lot of con­nect­ed par­ties in Japan for a long time. Prob­a­bly.

So let’s hope the yakuza nev­er goes down the path of egre­gious dump­ing, because each of those ships filled with toxic/nuclear waste that the Ital­ian mafia sank off the coast of Italy were extreme­ly seri­ous wounds to the bios­phere. Life is pret­ty tough, but enriched nuclear waste can be tougher. Or at least it can give life a seri­ous headache. And maybe muta­tions. Muta­tions just add up. So does nuclear waste. The half can get nasty with the stuff found in that roof­less build­ing. The Japan­ese gov­ern­ment is still look­ing at sites to store the waste [43] so we real­ly have very lit­tle idea of what the long-term plans are going to be for the dis­pos­al of that stuff but pre­sum­ably the dis­pos­al space will be at a pre­mi­um. There’s a lot or mate­r­i­al to store [44]. Lots is going to get tossed. Please dump gen­tly Mr. yakuzas. Like, at least hire ecol­o­gy grad stu­dents to find the least dam­ag­ing spots to dump stuff if it comes to that. And take low­er prof­its to do it in the least envi­ron­men­tal­ly dam­ag­ing way. And if you could use your yakuza pow­ers to ensure all the oth­er dumpers also dump gen­tly that would be super of an epic pro­por­tion. Don’t dump, of course. But if you just have to dump, dump gen­tly. The ecosys­tem is already in a qua­si-state of col­lapse and cli­mate change is just get­ting under­way. Throw­ing large amounts of radi­a­tion into the mix is cru­el.

Just over a month ago, we saw the first arrest of a yakuza boss pro­vid­ing cleanup staff. Police called it the first such arrest of a yakuza boss for send­ing peo­ple to work at Fukushi­ma. It was also the sec­ond such “first arrest of a yakuza boss for Fukushi­ma”. The first one took place last May [45], although the reports are unclear if this is the same per­son that was arrest­ed on both occa­sions. Either way, there were no hints of improp­er activ­i­ties by the employ­ees in the reports...the prob­lem was that they were hired by a yakuza boss sub­con­trac­tor that was tak­ing a cut of their salaries. So it appears that there is indeed some yakuza mus­cle mov­ing that nuclear waste. Not much, based on reports, but some [46]:

Japan police arrest mob­ster over Fukushi­ma clean-up

(AFP) – Feb 1, 2013

TOKYO — Japan­ese police have arrest­ed a high-rank­ing yakuza over claims he sent work­ers to the strick­en Fukushi­ma nuclear plant for the clean-up with­out a licence.

Offi­cers in north­ern Yam­a­ga­ta pre­fec­ture were quizzing Yoshi­nori Arai, a 40-year-old senior mem­ber of a local yakuza group affil­i­at­ed to the Sumiyoshi-kai crime syn­di­cate, a police spokesman said.

Arai alleged­ly dis­patched three men to Fukushi­ma to work on clean-up crews in Novem­ber, he said.

Under Japan­ese law, a gov­ern­ment licence is required by any­one who acts as an employ­ment agent.

Arai is also sus­pect­ed of send­ing peo­ple to work on the con­struc­tion of tem­po­rary hous­ing in the tsuna­mi-hit north­east, the spokesman said.

Arai report­ed­ly told police that he intend­ed to prof­it from the scheme by tak­ing a cut of the work­ers’ wages. Those employed at Fukushi­ma earn more than oth­ers in sim­i­lar work because of the poten­tial­ly haz­ardous nature of the job.

It was the first arrest of a mob­ster linked to Fukushi­ma clean-up, the police spokesman said.

...

The full scale of the dam­age done from the Fukushi­ma dis­as­ter is yet to be deter­mined. Some of it will come down to luck, like whether or not anoth­er major earth­quake and/or tsuna­mi hits the plant before those nuclears rods can be safe­ly removed. But much of the dam­age that will emerge for the dis­as­ter two years ago is yet to be deter­mined and its going to be deter­mined pri­mar­i­ly by human error and human choic­es. The “Fukushi­ma 50” — work­ers that hero­ical­ly worked at the plant in spite of the enor­mous per­son­al risks — includ­ed Yakuza-affil­i­ates [47]. Their actions pre­vent­ed a bad sit­u­a­tion from become much worse. There are going to be an enor­mous num­ber of sac­ri­fices required in the future in order to min­i­mize the addi­tion dam­age that has yet to be inflict­ed by the giant pile of high­ly radioac­tive mate­r­i­al sit­ting in a build­ing with its roof blown off. Due the nature of the sit­u­a­tion and the exist­ing polit­i­cal pow­er struc­tures, those crit­i­cal future deci­sion are going to be large­ly in secret be large­ly unknown indi­vid­u­als. And due to the yakuza­’s unique “risky/dirt busi­ness” niche in both Japan’s pow­er struc­ture and nuclear indus­try it seems like­ly that some of those secret deci­sions will be made by the yakuza. Secrets like “who dumped what hor­ri­ble tox­in where?” might be the exclu­sive domain of yakuza boss­es in many instances.

The idea of yakuza mob boss­es pos­si­bly hav­ing con­trol of enor­mous­ly pow­er­ful nuclear secrets should be a rather dis­turb­ing thought. At the same time, orga­nized crim­i­nal syn­di­cates have always played a role in nation­al secu­ri­ty affairs and pow­er secrets, so this isn’t a new sit­u­a­tion and the world has­n’t blown up yet. Then again, the world is going to hell in a hand­bas­ket, so while qua­si-mob-rule isn’t a new sit­u­a­tion, it’s still a bad sit­u­a­tion that’s get­ting worse. And if you removed the mobs from the equa­tion, it would­n’t nec­es­sar­i­ly get much bet­ter. Mob rule [48] can be [49] a [50] a state of mind [51].

The Sav­ing the Econ­o­my By Sav­ing Each Oth­er Stim­u­lus Plan
One of the rea­sons the Japan­ese gov­ern­men­t’s recent deci­sion to engage in seri­ous stim­u­lus spend­ing [52] was like­ly to be a use­ful pol­i­cy is that an enor­mous amount of work needs to be done to address the still dire sit­u­a­tion at Fukushi­ma. That’s going to cost mon­ey. A LOT of mon­ey. The entire world real­ly should be par­tic­i­pat­ing in a glob­al eco­nom­ic stim­u­lus plan: the “Save Japan” plan. It had a hor­rif­ic earth­quake, tsuna­mi, and ongo­ing nuclear melt­down all at once. Yeah, it’s a very wealthy coun­try with immense resources but again: earth­quake, tsuna­mi, ongo­ing nuclear melt­down. And EVERYONE needs the exist­ing dan­gers [53] put under con­trol. So why not have a glob­al “Save Japan because, you know, earth­quake, tsuna­mi, and ongo­ing nuclear melt­down” plan?

Japan may be act­ing like it has every­thing all under con­trol but it’s total­ly fronting. It’s not going to ask for help because, you know, it’s Japan. But they still need help and the more help they get, in terms of real man­pow­er, the less yakuza and oth­er shady con­trac­tors will be required and hired. They’re just going allow them­selves to qui­et­ly get irra­di­at­ed and it’s going to take longer to deal with those extreme­ly radioac­tive rods. “Save Japan” is in every­one’s best inter­est. Coun­tries around the world can build all sort of new busi­ness­es and areas of research and devel­op what­ev­er tech­nolo­gies the busi­ness­es report­ed­ly weren’t inter­est­ed in doing. This would be the per­fect stim­u­lus tar­get: glob­al radioac­tive calami­ty that could take place should anoth­er major event hit that plant and release even more radi­a­tion. How many tens of bil­lions of dol­lars would it cost to fig­ure out what­ev­er needs to be fig­ured out for Fukushi­ma rods? It’s going to take a while, but learn­ing how to move and store high­ly radioac­tive crap bet­ter seems like a very use­ful thing for human­i­ty to know how to do giv­en our predilec­tion for cre­at­ing it. $100 bil­lion over a decade for a crash movement/processing/storage pro­gram divid­ed up between the world maybe?

Ok, now add a save Yemen because it’s about to run out of water [54] glob­al stim­u­lus pro­gram. There’s clear­ly going to be a num­ber of new tech­nolo­gies and infra­struc­ture need­ed to pre­pare Yemen for that fate­ful “oh crap” day that’s hit­ting some­time soon­er or lat­er [55].

Sim­i­lar­ly, make a “Save the Nile region because a Nile Water War Would be Hell [56]” glob­al stim­u­lus plan. Nations all over could study the region’s grow­ing water needs and study what’s going to be required to tran­si­tion that regions towards a sus­tain­able econ­o­my. Not one on a tra­jec­to­ry towards eco-cat­a­stro­phe and war.

And just keep going find­ing regions of the world with the place is careen­ing towards calami­ty and needs help. And just do it as stim­u­lus. No coun­ter­bal­anc­ing aus­ter­i­ty non­sense (I’m look­ing at you Europe). Just stim­u­lus. Save the world and stim­u­late the econ­o­my while you’re doing it! Each coun­try could throw in what­ev­er mon­ey they want but would all have to be direct­ed as solv­ing one of the most trou­bled regions of the world. A place fac­ing loom­ing dis­as­ter. The amount should prob­a­bly be a pret­ty big chunk for coun­tries that can afford it. The US, for instance, could prob­a­ble afford to con­tribute at least, oh, say, around $85 bil­lion or so to the “Save the World and Stim­u­late While You Do It” plan. At least $85 bil­lion, if not more. US indus­tries could be devel­oped ded­i­cat­ed to find­ing things like awe­some new desalin­iza­tion tech­nolo­gies, bet­ter radi­a­tion shield­ing (great for space trav­el), robot­ic fac­to­ries that build ultra-eco-friend­ly homes and then fac­to­ries that build the fac­to­ries that build the homes. And then we give the home-build­ing fac­to­ries to the places that need ultra-eco-friend­ly homes. And we just keep doing that and no one cares about bal­ance of trade or what­ev­er. The entire mod­ern econ­o­my needs to be tech­no­log­i­cal­ly revamped to deal with the con­straints of the 21st cen­tu­ry. And once there are no more seri­ous prob­lems — prob­lems like pover­ty or thou­sand of high­ly radioac­tive spent fuel rods that are sit­ting in a build­ing with its roof blown off — we can end the stim­u­lus pro­gram. We will have saved our­selves by sav­ing each oth­er in a stim­u­lat­ing way.

Update 11/12/2013
Here’s an update on the sit­u­a­tion in Fukushi­ma: Tep­co is about to begin the high­ly dan­ger­ous process of safe­ly remov­ing the 1,300+ spent fuel-rods from Fukushi­ma Dai­ichi 4.

Q. What could go wrong?

A: OMFG [57].

Agence France-Presse
Novem­ber 6, 2013 23:21
Facts on com­plex oper­a­tion to remove Fukushi­ma fuel rods

Tokyo Elec­tric Pow­er (TEPCO) will this month start remov­ing fuel from a stor­age pool at Japan’s Fukushi­ma nuclear plant, the most chal­leng­ing oper­a­tion since run­away reac­tors were brought under con­trol two years ago.

Here are some key facts about the oper­a­tion.

Q: What’s the state of nuclear fuel at the site?

A: Reac­tors No. 1, 2 and 3 went into melt­down after their cool­ing sys­tems were knocked out by the March 2011 tsuna­mi. The tem­per­a­ture of the cores and spent fuel pools at all reac­tors is now sta­ble and water is being used to keep them cool.

Reac­tor No. 4, whose out­er build­ing was dam­aged by fires and an explo­sion, has an emp­ty core but a total of 1,533 fuel assem­blies — 1,331 spent fuel bun­dles and 202 unused ones — are in its stor­age pool.

Q: Why does TEPCO have to take fuel from the pool?

A: Accord­ing to the firm, it is safer to store all fuel in a shared pool that is rein­forced against pos­si­ble future earth­quakes and tsunamis.

This will be the first post-tsuna­mi attempt to move any fuel from one part of the plant to anoth­er.

Q: How will the oper­a­tion work?

A: Under nor­mal cir­cum­stances, nuclear plants shuf­fle fuel rods around fair­ly fre­quent­ly, often using com­put­er-con­trolled robot­ic arms that “know” exact­ly where each fuel assem­bly is.

But the dam­age to the build­ing hous­ing this pool, along with the pres­ence in the pool of debris from explo­sions, is a wild­card that will com­pli­cate this oper­a­tion con­sid­er­ably.

Work­ers in heavy pro­tec­tive equip­ment will use a remote con­trol to direct a spe­cial­ly installed “grab­ber” into the pool where it will latch onto fuel assem­blies and drop them into a huge cask.

Each 4.5‑metre (15-foot) fuel bun­dle needs to be kept com­plete­ly sub­merged at all times to pre­vent it from heat­ing up.

Once loaded with assem­blies and water, the 91-tonne cask will be lift­ed out by a dif­fer­ent crane and put onto a trail­er. It will then be tak­en to anoth­er part of the com­plex and the process will be reversed.

Remov­ing all 1,500-odd assem­blies is expect­ed to take until the end of 2014. Get­ting this done suc­cess­ful­ly will mean engi­neers can then start try­ing to extri­cate fuel from the reac­tors that went into melt­down.

But where the fuel pool oper­a­tion is tricky and con­tains a few unknowns, remov­ing fuel from the melt­ed and mis­shapen cores of reac­tors 1, 2 and 3 will pose a whole new lev­el of dif­fi­cul­ty.

Q. What could go wrong?

A: Each rod con­tains ura­ni­um and a small amount of plu­to­ni­um. If they are exposed to the air, for exam­ple if they are dropped by the grab­ber, they would start to heat up, a process that, left unchecked, could lead to a self-sus­tain­ing nuclear reac­tion — known as “crit­i­cal­i­ty”.

TEPCO says a sin­gle assem­bly should not reach crit­i­cal­i­ty and the grab­ber will not car­ry more than one at a time.

Assem­blies exposed to the air would give off so much radi­a­tion that it would be dif­fi­cult for a work­er to get near enough to fix it.

Scep­tics say with so many unknow­ables in an oper­a­tion that has nev­er been attempt­ed under these con­di­tions, there is poten­tial for a cat­a­stro­phe.

Gov­ern­ment mod­el­ling in the imme­di­ate after­math of the Fukushi­ma dis­as­ter, which was only sub­se­quent­ly made pub­lic, sug­gest­ed that an uncon­trolled nuclear con­fla­gra­tion at Fukushi­ma could start a chain reac­tion in oth­er near­by nuclear plants.

That worst-case sce­nario said a huge evac­u­a­tion area could encom­pass a large part of greater Tokyo, a mega­lopo­lis with 35 mil­lion inhab­i­tants.

Only one rod can be moved at a time and if one spent fuel rod drops on the ground dur­ing it might give off so much radi­a­tion that work­ers will be unable to get near enough to fix it. Plus, if a rod is allowed to heat up too much it could spon­ta­neous­ly go “crit­i­cal”. And this whole process will have to be repeat­ed 1,300+ times, hope­ful­ly by the end of 2014.

How about we all send some extreme­ly good vibes to the Fukushi­ma cleanup work­ers that are tak­ing one for Team Life-on-Earth [58]. Espe­cial­ly [59] the new ones [60].