The ongoing disaster at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power station, operated by Tokyo Electric Power Company, since 11 March 201 (also known as '3.11'), can be recognised as part of a global phenomenon that has been in development over some time. This disaster occurred within a political, economic and social shift that began in the mid 1970s and became more acute in the early 1990s in Japan with the downturn of economic growth and greater deregulation and financialisation in the global economy. With increased casualisation of the workforce, lifetime contracts guaranteed by corporate unions and further lifting of tariff protections, a weakening welfare regime has intensified pressure on working populations and the most vulnerable: irregular day labourers, or what we might call 'informal labour'.
As we have seen in post-3.11, the conditions faced by irregular workers in nuclear power plants in Japan since the 1970s are now being experienced to varying degrees by residents in radiation-contaminated areas. From research of localised perspectives on these conditions as well as the genealogy of regulatory standards and broader interests in the nuclear industry, this paper explores how these intertwined problems of environmental crises and labour exploitation suggest a deeper systemic application of neoliberal economic methods. This also suggests possible ways to develop solutions to such critical problems that are currently manifest in many industries around the globe.