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Before the Fukushima accident brought to light the parlous state of the Japanese nuclear industry, for years temporary workers have jumped in and out of remunerative short-term jobs at the power plants ignoring the risk of their profession. Takeshi Kawakami (川上武志) was one of the so-called ‘nuclear gypsies’ and just like many other colleagues of his, for about 30 years he made a livelihood working at the different nuclear plants of the country for short periods. For years he earned money helping repair or replace malfunctioning parts of nuclear reactors and carrying out dangerous operations, with a high-risk of radiation exposure. In his blog, Kawakami denounced the corruption and collusion between the government and the nuclear industry, focusing his coverage on the Hamaoka nuclear power plant. This power plant was recently shut down at the request of the Japanese government for remedial work after it was deemed dangerous to continue operating in light of its position on one of the major seismic faults lines in the Japanese archipelago. In the post partly translated here, he tells of his experiences as a temporary worker when he worked for the first time inside a steam generator at the Genkai nuclear power plant in southern Japan.
The sun has only just risen in Iwaki-Yumoto when groups of men in white T-shirts and light blue cargo pants emerge blinking into the sunlight, swapping the comfort of their air-conditioned rooms for the fierce humidity of a Japanese summer. Four months on from the start of the world's worst nuclear crisis since Chernobyl, this hot-spring resort in north-east Japan has been transformed into a dormitory for 2,000 men who have travelled from across the country to take part in the clean-up effort 30 miles away at the Fukushima Daiichi power plant. Iwaki-Yumoto has come to resemble corporate Japan in microcosm. Among its newest residents are technicians and engineers with years of experience and, underpinning them all, hundreds of labourers lured from across Japan by the prospect of higher wages.