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Tepco refusing to pay fallout-hit municipalities for most decontamination work, japan times, 3/30/2015

Tokyo Electric Power Co. has only covered 2 percent of the ¥76.1 billion that municipalities have spent on decontamination work since the Fukushima nuclear crisis began in 2011, according to Environment Ministry officials.

Tepco, operator of the Fukushima No. 1 power plant, has effectively refused to cover the costs of removing tainted soil and other debris gathered by the fallout-hit governments, saying it is confirming whether such payments are required by law.

The central government has paid for the cleanup work on Tepco’s behalf, but if the utility continues to balk, more taxpayer money will be needed to cover the interest payments.

Tepco has so far basically paid for decontamination work conducted directly by the central government in areas close to the nuclear plant, but it has treated decontamination work carried out by local governments in other areas in a different manner.

Under the current scheme, municipal governments are authorized to conduct decontamination in designated areas. The central government pays them first and has Tepco reimburse it for the expenses later.

A law enacted in August 2011 stipulates that Tepco bears the responsibility of paying for the decontamination work. The central government had earmarked ¥1.4 trillion for this effort, including around ¥630 billion for work done by municipal governments, by the end of fiscal 2014.

The Environment Ministry has requested that Tepco pay back ¥76.1 billion by the end of February to cover work for which costs have been finalized. Tepco has only paid ¥1.5 billion.

“It takes time for us to confirm if they were decontamination operations for which we are obliged to pay the costs,” a Tepco official said.

In response, an Environment Ministry official said Sunday that “all of our requests to Tokyo Electric Power have been made based on the law and we will continue to urge the company to pay back all the money.”

Tepco posted its first pretax profit in three years in the business year ended in March 2014 after plunging into financial difficulties following the triple core meltdowns in March 2011.

The utility is projecting a group pretax profit of ¥227 billion for the business year ending Tuesday.

Only 40% of gov’t subsidies for Tohoku disaster projects spent, mainichi, 3/26/2015

TOKYO (Kyodo) — Only 40.5 percent of government subsidies granted to reconstruction-related projects by municipalities and other entities in Japan between fiscal 2011 and 2013 was used as planned, a review by the Board of Audit of Japan showed Monday.

A total of 3.4 trillion yen ($28.38 billion) was extended to 102 projects during the period for a wide range of areas such as housing, medical services, nursing care and welfare. But only 1.3 trillion yen was spent as of the end of fiscal 2013, as some projects were not carried out as initially planned, or may have been overfunded in the first place.

The Board of Audit of Japan said the finding is not necessarily problematic, given that reconstruction projects need multiple years to be completed. But the body, which checks state expenditures, urged the central government to “examine whether the scale of such projects is appropriate.”

Japan marks the fourth anniversary on March 11 of the 2011 earthquake and tsunami that wreaked havoc on the Tohoku region in the country’s northeast, but reconstruction is far from complete.

Six projects saw their granted subsidies unused, including one to extend low-interest loans to disaster victims to build and repair houses, partly because it took time to reorganize town lots and prepare them on higher ground.

In the three hardest hit prefectures of Iwate, Miyagi and Fukushima alone, 50.9 percent of 1.7 trillion yen in state subsidies granted to 62 projects was used.

The review also found a combined 136 billion yen allocated for 32 disaster-related projects had been returned to the state by the end of March 2014.

Roughly 90 percent of the amount, or 123 billion yen, was given back as the government tightened control over the use of subsidies for reconstruction amid revelations that some subsidies had been diverted to other purposes.

Japan allocated 25.1 trillion yen in reconstruction-related budget from fiscal 2011 to 2013 including the subsidies granted, with around 20.1 trillion yen, or 80.1 percent, spent, according to the board. The rate compares with 77.2 percent in the previous survey that covered fiscal 2011 and 2012.

Around 3 trillion yen was left unspent on such projects as rebuilding of public and medical facilities and removal of waste produced after the Fukushima nuclear crisis, as projects were delayed due to poor coordination, according to the report.

Contaminated soil begins arriving at mid-term storage site in Fukushima town, mainichi, 3/26/2015

FUTABA, Fukushima — The transfer of radioactively contaminated soil from a temporary holding area to a mid-term storage site began here on March 25.

Similar work has been underway in neighboring Okuma since March 13, but Futaba Mayor Shiro Izawa had asked for the work in his town to be put off until after a traditional period for visiting family graves, which ended on March 24.

“Although I feel that progress has been made towards improving the prefecture’s environment and recovery from the disaster, I have mixed feelings when I think about the heavy burden shouldered by the area accepting the waste,” Izawa stated in a news release.

Under current waste management plans, soil contaminated by the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant disaster will be held at mid-term sites for up to 30 years.

On March 25, 12 of 800 bags containing a cubic meter of soil each were moved via two 10-ton trucks to a temporary holding area at the site of the planned mid-term storage facility, which has yet to be built. The site is around 3.2 kilometers from the temporary holding area.

Over the coming year, the Ministry of the Environment plans to clear 43,000 cubic meters of contaminated soil from temporary storage sites in 43 Fukushima Prefecture municipalities.

Naraha residents gather for 1st community festival since 2011 quake, nuke disasters, fukushima minpo, 3/22/2015

original link: http://www.fukushimaminponews.com/news.html?id=487

The town of Naraha hosted a community festival at the newly completed Naraha Junior High School and other venues on March 21 to pray for its reconstruction and recovery from the 2011 earthquake, tsunami and nuclear disasters. Many residents who have evacuated to other municipalities returned to their hometown for the occasion and the event was filled with joy and laughter from the participants.

It was the town’s first large-scale event since the March 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake and the ensuing nuclear crisis at Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s Fukushima Daiichi power plant. The organizers said they wanted to let residents see in person the progress of recovery and reconstruction in the town, and hoped the event would motivate some to move back as well as build momentum for further rehabilitation.

The festival included a special lecture by TV personality-turned former Miyazaki Gov. Hideo Higashikokubaru, performances by popular animation and other characters, and small “class reunions” where residents of the same age groups got together to share their reminiscences of the old days.

In the festival’s finale, the residents released into the air about 200 balloons, on which were written their thoughts and wishes for Naraha, to pray for their hometown’s recovery, shouting “Our hearts are united as one, Naraha!”

Local residents to request preservation of school building damaged by tsunami, japan, yomiuri, 3/21/2015

original article: http://the-japan-news.com/news/article/0002023691

The Yomiuri Shimbun ISHINOMAKI, Miyagi — Local residents in the Okawa district of Ishinomaki, Miyagi Prefecture, have decided to call for the municipal government to preserve the school building of Okawa Primary School, where 84 children, teachers and other school employees died or went missing in tsunami following the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake, as a remainder of the disaster.

The decision was made on Friday at a meeting of the Okawa district restoration council, comprising local residents and others. The council plans to soon submit a petition to the municipal government to turn the area into a park, leaving the school building as it is.

The council invited about 400 households in the district to a meeting held on March 8 and conducted a questionnaire survey of the 126 attendees on how to deal with the school building. Nearly half, or 57 people, responded they wanted to preserve the whole building, 37 said they wanted to dismantle it, three hoped to partially preserve the building and the rest turned in a blank survey.

“Although some people said the number of respondents was too small, we respected the result,” said Mikio Otsuki, 72, chairman of the council.

People’s opinions are divided on preserving the school building. While some ask for it to be preserved as “a place that conveys the terrors of tsunami,” others call for it to be leveled it as “it brings up painful memories.”

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