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Japan Ministry Sticks to Geological Disposal of Radioactive Waste, jiji, 10/24/12

Tokyo, Oct. 24 (Jiji Press)–The Japanese industry ministry on Wednesday expressed a reluctance to adopt a proposal from academics that high-level radioactive waste be stored for possibly decades or centuries as an interim measure until new processing technologies are developed.
The Science Council of Japan submitted the proposal last month to the Japan Atomic Energy Commission of the Cabinet Office.
At a meeting of the commission the same day, however, the industry ministry explained that the most internationally endorsed method for dealing with such waste is geological disposal to keep it deep underground for tens of thousands of years.
While the science council in its proposal did not refer to ways for final disposal of high-level radioactive waste, the ministry stressed at the meeting that the international consensus is that final disposal methods should be clarified.

New type of residence certificate planned for evacuees from nuclear disaster, fukushima minpo, 10/24/2012

The central government is considering issuing a new type of residence certificate to evacuees from the nuclear disaster at the Fukushima Daiichi power plant.

For evacuees who have yet to register their new addresses, the government is planning to issue certificates based on the places where they live now. Such evacuees who have failed to register their new addresses are facing various difficulties when they receive administrative services, such as seal registration, and in their daily lives, such as car purchases.

To issue the new evacuation place certificates, the government plans to consider such measures as revising related legislation, reviewing the operation of administrative services and issuing instructions to business operators.

Before starting talks with the central government, the Fukushima prefectural government will talk with the municipal governments in areas where evacuees from the nuclear disaster live about problems to be cleared toward the issuance of the new type of residence certificate.

The central government unveiled the plan to issue evacuation place certificates during talks on Oct. 23 in Fukushima city with the Fukushima prefectural government on measures against the long-term evacuation of residents from the nuclear disaster.

An official from the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications, who is in charge of the project, told the meeting that no double residence certificate can be accepted under the Constitution.

In response to a request from the Fukushima prefectural government for new residence certificates for the evacuees, the official said the ministry plans to work out measures for issuing certificates based on places where the evacuees currently live without letting them transfer their original residence certificates to the evacuation places.

Prefectural government officials said the evacuees cannot resister their seals with offices of the municipal governments in the area they live now if they do not transfer their original residence certificates to the evacuation places from the places where they lived before evacuation. Such evacuees need to visit local government offices for their original residence places or file their requests with them by mail to receive certificates of seal.

In addition, the evacuees are required to show their residence certificates to mobile phone carriers or automobile dealers when they purchase phone handsets or cars. They also face such inconveniences over credit-card contracts as card issuers will send the cards only to the addresses on the evacuees’ residence certificates.

The 2011 special law concerning evacuees from the nuclear disaster limits the scope of its coverage only to a number of fields, such as certification of those who need long-term care and students’ enrollment into or change of schools.

A large number of evacuees have failed to change their residence registry as they love their hometowns and wish to return to them at an early date, according to municipal governments which have also moved their offices to other municipalities in the aftermath of the nuclear disaster.

Katsutaka Idogawa, mayor of the town of Futaba which, together with the town of Okuma, hosts the disaster-hit Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power station, said he hopes that the new type of residence certificate will be realized, noting some business corporations ask town residents to show their residence certificates in business deals.

An official of the Okuma municipal government said the new type of residence certificate would be convenient for residents who live in municipalities where the town has no branch offices.

Currently, the number of Fukushima Prefecture residents who have been forced to evacuate from their original residences to other places — both in and outside the prefecture — total 160,000.

Japan to Help N-Disaster Evacuees Find Jobs in Hometowns, jiji, 10/20/12

Tokyo, Oct. 20 (Jiji Press)–Japan’s labor ministry will start helping in fiscal 2013 nuclear disaster evacuees find jobs in their hometowns from which they have been displaced, according to officials.
The ministry will provide job search support subsidies to eight municipalities near the Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s Fukushima No. 1 power plant, the site of Japan’s worst nuclear accident, in Fukushima Prefecture.
The eight municipalities in the northeastern Japan prefecture are the cities of Minamisoma and Tamura, the towns of Naraha, Hirono, Kawamata and Namie, and the villages of Kawauchi and Katsurao.
Ministry officials said the subsidies will help cover the costs of job seminars, workplace training, and many other programs, such as orientation for farmers now trying to start anew as corporate employees.
To help increase jobs in the eight municipalities, the ministry will also support local companies that are looking for job applicants, the officials added.

3/11 survivor liens may be canceled, japan times/ Jiji, 10/20/12

Lenders are thinking about canceling liens on residential land to facilitate the relocation of people who lost their homes in the March 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami.

Under the idea, regional banks and other local financial institutions in afflicted areas will give up their claims on the land secured for housing loan repayments by the disaster victims. The borrowers will be asked to repay the loans with the proceeds from selling their property to their municipality.
Japanese Bankers Association Chairman Yasuhiro Sato said Thursday the industry will help affected people move smoothly from tsunami-hit areas.
Municipalities along the Pacific coast in northeastern and eastern Japan have devised collective relocation plans under which they will buy residential land from tsunami survivors so they can move to newly developed residential areas on higher ground.
Covered by these plans are some 30,000 homes in 276 districts in Iwate, Miyagi, Fukushima and Ibaraki prefectures.
If lenders cancel their liens on tracts owned by disaster victims, the owners will have more options in selling the property.
Key questions will include how to deal with remaining loans that borrowers cannot repay with their land sale proceeds.

Much Urayasu liquefaction damage awaits repair / Areas near major roads restored, but tilted houses, rippled pavement, broken pipes still widespread problems, yomiuri, 10/18/12

Akio Oikawa and Shogo Hara / Yomiuri Shimbun Staff Writers

Reconstruction of an area of Urayasu, Chiba Prefecture, still has a long way to go after 86 percent of the city’s area was affected by liquefaction at the time of the Great East Japan Earthquake.

Liquefaction is a phenomenon where pockets of stable sand underground are shaken by an earthquake and mixed with groundwater. As a result, the soil becomes sludgy and unstable.

In some cases, muddy water reaches the surface. Because the ground foundation suddenly becomes soft, buildings may sink or tilt.

About 9,000 residential buildings were damaged by the liquefaction.

This month, in the Maihama district, which was severely damaged, the city government’s branch office resumed operation, and administrative services have recovered to pre-disaster levels.

But tilted houses still remain, and ripples remain in some roads in the area.

It will take about three years for the water supply and sewerage systems to be fully restored.

Many tasks and hurdles remain before the area’s quiet residential districts can return to their pre-disaster condition.

An administrative service center of the city government reopened Oct. 1 in front of JR Maihama Station, which is the gateway to Tokyo Disney Resort.

The center’s building was tilted due to liquefaction, and was closed until recently.

A 77-year-old man who visited the center to obtain a registration certificate for his personal seal looked relieved and said, “Now I no longer have to go to the next station by train.”

Obvious traces of the disaster can no longer be seen near Maihama Station and on major roads. But in residential districts, “Under repair” signs are prominent in many places beside slightly tilted houses.

In some places, houses sank into the ground and sewer pipes under roads were clogged.

Yuko Shiina, a 47-year-old homemaker, relies on makeshift pumps set up by the city government to keep the sewers flowing.

She said: “Under usual conditions there is no problem at all. But this summer, I worried about what I would do if the pumps stopped due to a blackout or an electric power shortage.”

Most of Urayasu is reclaimed land. In one extreme case, a building sank nearly 90 centimeters into the ground.

Among about 9,000 buildings damaged by the disaster, about 1,400 are severely damaged houses, qualifying the owners to receive subsidies from the central government.

Of that total, more than 60 percent of the homes were repaired or under repair as of the end of September.

But many of about 5,900 houses categorized as “half-collapsed” or “partially collapsed” remained untouched.

The Chiba prefectural government and the Urayasu city government began in July last year providing up to 1 million yen in subsidies to owners of houses who are not eligible to receive state aid. But only about 20 percent of the owners had applied for the local governments’ aid as of September this year.

An official in charge of the issue at the prefectural government said, “There are many people who can’t decide what method to use to reinforce their foundations.”

There are various methods for performing reinforcement work on a building’s foundations. The city government said costs also vary widely from several million yen to 30 million yen.

There are cases where border stones were lost in the liquefaction and land owners became unable to confirm land boundaries.

In other cases, the relative heights of residential land plots and the roads they face changed significantly.

In some such cases, work to restore water supply pipes cannot begin until the land boundaries are confirmed.

Water supply, sewerage systems and other crucial systems in the area were temporarily restored a month after the disaster, but local governments assume they will only be fully restored in fiscal 2015.

This is because the restoration work is done with a certain number of repairs en masse to achieve high efficiency, instead of repairing each gas or water pipe separately.

A long time will also be needed to take measures against liquefaction when restoring sewerage systems.

The city government in June set up an expert panel to discuss which methods are more effective for reinforcing ground foundations.

The city government plans to compile the recommended methods and forecast costs of the work in early November and give explanations to residents.

But a city government official said work to reinforce ground foundations will not be effective if each house owner does the work separately.

The official said, “Unless the work is done with a consistent way in at least one neighborhood association, reinforcement of ground foundations will be difficult to accomplish.”

The city government plans to seek the understanding of residents regarding the issue through explanatory meetings.

The city government also plans to conduct measures to prevent liquefaction in important parts of the sewerage and highway systems that were not damaged by the disaster.

(Oct. 18, 2012)

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