By Toshinori Shishido
In July 2015, the Fukushima prefectural government announced its plan to terminate housing assistance for nuclear evacuees who fled areas outside of the restricted zone at the end of March 2017. It has absolutely no intention to change this policy as of this moment in February 2016.
In addition, by March 2017, the Fukushima Prefectural Office will lift evacuation orders for the entire prefecture, except for the immediate vicinity of the power plant designated the “difficult-to-return zone,” that has “equal to or greater than the external exposure dose of 50mSv/year.” (Insert: “translator’s note: the internationally recognized standard dose limit per year is 1mSv/year.) For residents who may eventually move back to these areas, the Prefectural Office has determined that it will only pay one year’s worth of compensation (1.2 million yen or US$ 10,500) per person and will terminate other special protective measures and financial incentives.
For residents of regions that have been designated as “difficult-to-return areas”, the Office has reportedly finished the payments of reparations in bulk, and is not going to make additional payments.
And for residents outside of Fukushima Prefecture, there has been almost no official support for damages from the nuclear power plant accident in the first place.
While the government has provided extremely limited housing support for very few residents from prefectures adjacent to Fukushima and for evacuees from these prefectures, it has gradually decreased the target population over time and plans to end all financial assistance for them by March 2018.
Although there is room to compensate local industries for damages, even in cases where the “Nuclear Damages Dispute Resolution Center” (or Alternative Dispute Resolution Center, ADR for short), established to bring speedy resolutions, has sought payment from Tokyo Electric Power Company, there are an increasing number of cases in which TEPCO has refused to pay. In addition, even though the ADR Center has repeatedly demanded that the Japanese government instruct TEPCO to comply with the settlements and make payments quickly, the Japanese government has not directed TEPCO to do so.
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It is clear to us that Japanese officials have neglected to work on compensation, reparation, fact-finding, clarification of causes, and information disclosure from the nuclear accident until now. Not only that, but Japanese government agencies have destroyed some official documents from immediately after the nuclear accident without even notifying the public, on the grounds that there is a “legal obligation to preserve these documents for three years”.
Thanks to the destruction of documents from early stages, it has become extremely difficult to obtain proof that there have been measures that should have been implemented immediately after the nuclear accident, and it has become difficult to investigate and prove government blunders.
On matters besides those related to the nuclear accident, both the Japanese government and the Fukushima prefectural government are promoting and activating economic activities, including capital improvement projects fueled with tax money.
As for the motorways, all of Route 6, the main national highway, has been re-opened, and all of the Joban Expressway opened in 2015, ahead of the original construction schedule, which had been planned prior to the nuclear accident.
As for the railway, Japan Railway East Japan is aiming to reopen its entire Joban Line in the summer of 2020, prior to the Tokyo Olympics.
“Recovery” can be realized on roads and railroads through ample budgeting, gathering materials, and investing labor. The same is also true for most infrastructure, such as local government offices and electricity. The exception, however, is the water supply – there is no guarantee that radioactive isotopes that have accumulated at the bottom of the lake upstream of the intake will not be mixed into the water supply.
Including the issue of water supply, the fundamental causes of the troubles related to the current “revitalization” programs come from the government and Prefecture’s attitude that ignores the wishes of the residents who are victims. If I may borrow the phrase that has been used over time, there has been no “revitalization of humans.”
In other words, why doesn’t the “revitalization” from the nuclear accident that is promoted by the Japanese national government and the Fukushima prefectural government become the “revitalization” of people? Let us return to the starting point to consider this.
The reasons I propose are two-fold.
First, both the Japanese government and the Fukushima prefectural government continue to avert their eyes from the fact that this is a nuclear disaster. They never told residents about the extremely long timeline and difficulty of managing the aftermath of a nuclear disaster. Most of the media are constantly releasing words straight from the government and Fukushima prefecture without even investigating the contents. Hence, the majority of victims have been unable to face the complexity of the issues.
While it will soon be five years since March 11, 2011, it is hard to say that authorities have correctly communicated to the public how dangerous the situation had become, not only at the Fukushima Daiichi and Daini power plants under declaration of a Nuclear Emergency Situation, but also at the nearby Tokai 2 and Onagawa power plants.
Even Diet members and nuclear “scientists” have spoken unabashedly in the Diet and on television that “no problems occurred at [these] state-of-the-art nuclear power plants”, without being prompted to correct themselves. To say nothing of what happened to the ten reactors in Fukushima Prefecture and what is happening to them today, which is not even known.
On December 16, 2012, then-Prime Minister Noda used what had until then been only a scientific term, “cold shutdown,” to declare a “state of cold shutdown” in circumstances where this could not be [scientifically] declared. In other words, it was so necessary for the Japanese government to domestically fabricate the impression that “the nuclear crisis is over” that it used the term in a way not internationally recognized as a scientific concept.
And in regard to Reactors 1 to 4 at Daiichi, the government didn’t even bother making potentially realizable countermeasures an object of debate. They called issues inside the power plant “on-site” issues, implying there was little room for off-site intervention, and no projects after the “cold shutdown” declaration were deemed urgent. Naturally, we are left with no option to even ask beyond what options are available; how long these options will take to be effective or how long they will last.
Assuming this unstable situation at the power plant, it is impossible to discuss how
people’s daily existence around the accident plant [Daiichi] is possible to what distance, in what way.
The problem is not limited to within the facility. As long as we are unable to see distinctly what types of radioactive isotopes and how much they are present, at least within the vicinity of several miles off the plant, the “revitalization” planning would draw direct link from the clean up of the plant.
However, even in the areas within 10km (6.2 miles) radius of the plant where the airborne radioactive levels are relatively lower than its surroundings, the government has already decided to lift evacuation order by March of 2017.
Therefore, to those who will be living in the close proximity to the plant, the fate of the nuclear crisis is a matter of life and death. The government however insist that on-site (within plant facility) and off-site issues are two separate issues, refusing to incorporate clean-up plans into the “revitalization” roadmap.
Even if I give it extra compromise as to say the situation inside fences of the power plant is not related to “revitalization” activities, I must stress that both the government and Fukushima prefecture continue to defend an absurd stance on any potential radiological effects in the future, stating “any potential impact would be would be small enough to be unrecognizable.”
The state-led plans to proceed with human recovery as if the “disaster wasn’t a nuclear disaster” is extremely reckless, considering cases of Chernobyl nuclear accident and nuclear testings at Marshall Islands.However, the Japanese government and the Fukushima prefectural government continue to be reckless, ignoring “the people.”
My second point is that the Japanese government, the Fukushima prefecture as well as many local municipal offices have been deceiving us without a directly facing the human beings as victims and by neglecting the whereabouts of them.Essentially, when disasters and accidents bring damage, state bodies would have to desperately gather information from the first day in order to clarify the extent of the damage.
On the flip side, in regards to the victims and damages caused by the earthquake and tsunami that occurred on March 11, there have been evidences across the country that municipalities and governments put extensive efforts to grasp and understand the extent of damages as much as possible.even in municipalities where almost all of residences and even offices were damaged by the tsunami, there were attempts to understand the scale and circumstances of the damage.In places where the damages was too great for local municipalities to maintain their functions, prefectural governments cooperated trying to figure out actual damage.
However, with respect to the current nuclear accident, the government did not try to figure out scale of the damage or the actual situations of the victims.There is no way to find out the reason why they chose not to, unless you have access to confidential information by the government.
I suppose that the Japanese government and prefectural offices would have been liable for investigating the nuclear accident and not the local municipalities which didn’t have necessary human, organizational and technical resources. Yet there is no evidence of the government or prefectural offices having actively looked into the actual damages and status of evacuations caused by the nuclear contamination.
Rather, even when evacuees themselves demanded for official investigation, the authorities refused to act on their behalf and at times delayed publications of data they obtained.
I am yet to see a single governmental document on how nuclear evacuations took place. Perhaps such documents never even existed.
To my knowledge, in Japan, there has not been any official agencies or staff positions for creating and maintaining historical records of national events. Due to this, there is a serious lack of documentation that could be used as future reference. Nor the involvement of the responsible parties is ever questioned.
In fact, after writing the above paragraph I attempted to summarize evacuation processes as much as I could within my knowledge, only to find such efforts would require vast amount of writings and I would not know when I could finish such a project. Thus for the time being I would like to conclude my thesis here.
In conclusion, I will verify my points in summary.
The so-called “nuclear disaster victim assistance program” orchestrated by the Japanese government and Fukushima prefecture has been fraudulent since its inception. For the goal of their program has never been to protect the livelihood and safety of the victims and it lacked logical foundation.
By ending the inherently fraudulent assistance program, the government and Fukushima prefecture are crying out loud to the world that Fukushima has been recovered. The Fukushima prefectural government continues to actively send delegations overseas solely for the publicity purpose.
Fukushima Prefecture sends the delegations in order to round down the nuclear disaster victims and to disguise to the world the fact that the “reconstruction” they are proposing is ignoring the voices of victims.
Cover photo: “Nuclear Power an Affluent Society and City Planning” inside the Fukushima Exclusion Zone. Courtesy of Eric Parker on Flickr CC