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"We are building expertise as we work," said Fumiyasu Hirai, a Taisei spokesman. "It is a process of trial and error, but we are well equipped for the job."

This tiered structure, in which fees are siphoned off and wages dwindle each step down the ladder, follows the familiar pattern of Japan's nuclear and construction industries.

Although big companies have won the main contracts so far, the actual cleanup essentially a simple but tedious task of scrubbing and digging is being carried out by numerous subcontractors and sub subcontractors, who in turn rely on untrained casual laborers to do the dirtiest decontamination work.

One of them, the Taisei Corp., leads the consortium that sent out the workers now tramping around Iitate in hazmat suits. Consortiums led by Taisei and the other two big companies Obayashi and Kajima among them received contracts for the government's first 12 pilot decontamination projects, totaling about $93 million.

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The cleanup contracts, Sakurai and other critics contend, are emblematic of the too cozy ties they say have long existed between the nuclear industry and government.

IITATE, Japan As 500 workers in hazmat suits and respirator masks fanned out to decontaminate this village 20 miles from the ravaged Fukushima Dai ichi nuclear reactors, their confusion was apparent.

He spoke as he wiped a window with a paper towel.

"It's a scam," said Kiyoshi Sakurai, a critic of the nuclear industry and a former researcher at a forerunner to the Japan Atomic Energy Agency, which is overseeing this phase of decontamination. "Decontamination is becoming big business."

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Nobody may really know how. But that has not deterred the Japanese government from starting to hand out an initial $13 billion in contracts meant to rehabilitate the more than 8,000 square mile region most exposed to radioactive fallout an area nearly as big as New Jersey. The main goal is to enable the return of many of the 80,000 or more displaced people nearest the site of March's nuclear disaster, including the 6,500 villagers of Iitate.

It was these same three companies that helped build 45 of Japan's 54 nuclear plants including the reactor buildings and other plants at Fukushima Dai ichi that could not withstand the tsunami that caused a catastrophic failure according to data from Citizens' Nuclear Information Center, a watchdog group.

On the Iitate project, most of the workers come from elsewhere. The self described amateur wiping down the school windows, who would identify himself only as Adidas Tracksuit Green

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Kajima and Obayashi said they could not comment on the projects under way.

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An Environment Ministry official, Katsumasa Seimaru, said that big construction companies were Adidas Jacket Black And Gold

Some Iitate villagers have enlisted the help of university experts to take matters into their own hands. Their experiments, they say, suggest that decontamination must start on the forested mountains that cover three quarters of Iitate's land area.

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yet exist in decontamination, and there is no reason why the state should pay big money to big construction companies," said Yoichi Tao, a visiting professor in physics at Kogakuin University who is helping Iitate villagers test decontamination methods on their own. He is also monitoring the effectiveness of the energy agency's decontamination projects.

The Japan Atomic Energy Agency said the construction giants would not necessarily receive the bulk of the future work, which will be contracted out by the Environment Ministry. Company officials, however, have indicated they expected to continue serving as primary contractors.

"The Japanese nuclear industry is run so that the more you fail, the more money you receive," Sakurai said.

Shibata, said he was an autoworker by trade who resided about 160 miles away, just east of Nike Vapormax Replica Tokyo in Chiba.

best equipped to gather the necessary manpower, oversee large scale projects like decontaminating highways and mountains, and properly protect against and monitor radiation exposure among the cleanup workers. Radioactive particles are easily carried by wind and rain, and could recontaminate towns and cities even after a cleanup crew has passed through, experts say.

"One swipe per towel, or the radioactive particles just get spread around," he said. "Not that you can see the radiation at all."

"Dig 5 centimeters or 10 centimeters deep here?" a site supervisor asked his colleagues, pointing to a patch of radioactive topsoil to be removed.

´╗┐confusion and questions about propriety

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