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Cabinet approves new approach to rebuilding Fukushima, asahi, 12/21/2013

The Abe Cabinet approved guidelines that take a more realistic approach to rebuilding Fukushima Prefecture after the 2011 nuclear accident, including abandoning the goal of having all evacuees return to their homes.

But the plan, approved on Dec. 20, could raise criticism because taxpayers will bear the brunt of the burden.

Under the plan, the central government will provide additional compensation to evacuees to buy land and homes where they now reside. Compensation for psychological distress will also be paid to evacuees who are uncertain if they can ever return home.

The new approach will likely increase the number of evacuees who give up hope of returning home, leading to population decreases that could affect local governments. Central government officials plan to consult with local government officials about the future status of those municipalities.

At the same time, the central government is also considering providing an additional 900,000 yen ($8,600) in compensation to each evacuee who decides early on to return home.

The guidelines will also revise the method used to determine how much radiation the returnees are exposed to. Until now, estimates of radiation exposure were calculated based on airborne levels. In the future, returnees will be given dosimeters to measure their individual radiation doses.

This change is expected to relax the standards for deciding on what areas need decontamination from radiation.

While the new guidelines will maintain the long-term goal of annual radiation levels of 1 millisievert or less as the cutoff point for decontamination, the individual radiation level readings are expected to come out lower than the airborne readings.

That would in effect weaken the standard at which decontamination is required and would lead to reduced clean-up expenses.

Reflecting the huge task involved in rebuilding Fukushima communities, the new guidelines do not provide a timetable of when evacuees can return to specific municipalities nor does it include a road map to create an environment to allow evacuees to return home.

Some mayors have already voiced criticism that the new guidelines do not provide a vision for the future of Fukushima, raising doubt that the guidelines will in fact accelerate the rebuilding process.

The central government will also provide additional loans to Tokyo Electric Power Co., the operator of the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, because of the ballooning costs for dealing with the accident. The central government now estimates that at least 11 trillion yen will be needed.

Under the law, TEPCO is supposed to bear the entire burden, but the central government decided to pay for the construction of interim storage facilities for contaminated soil. The central government will also raise the upper limit for interest-free loans to TEPCO from 5 trillion yen to 9 trillion yen.

By providing additional funds to TEPCO, the central government is also bound to face criticism for essentially putting the financial burden on taxpayers.

However, Toshimitsu Motegi, the industry minister, explained the need for government involvement.

“Measures have been delayed because everything was forced on TEPCO,” he said at a Dec. 20 news conference. “We will accelerate rebuilding in Fukushima by clearly delineating the roles to be played by the central government and TEPCO.”


Of the 11 trillion yen needed to deal with the nuclear accident, about 2.5 trillion yen will go to decontamination, about 1.1 trillion yen will be used for construction and management of interim storage facilities and about 5.4 trillion yen will be required for compensation.

In addition, at least 2 trillion yen more would be needed for decommissioning the reactors at the Fukushima No. 1 plant and to deal with radiation-contaminated water there.

While TEPCO and the electric power industry will have to repay the loans from the government used for compensation and decontamination work, most of the money will likely come in the form of higher electricity rates.

The cost for constructing interim storage facilities will also be repaid over 30 years in the form of a tax that is already included in electricity rates. About 35 billion yen is expected to be paid from that tax in the next fiscal year. Any additional costs for decontamination will be directly covered by taxpayer money.

There are also plans to reduce the burden on taxpayers. One is to have the government-backed Nuclear Damage Liability Facilitation Fund sell off the TEPCO shares it possesses and use the gains to pay for decontamination work. If TEPCO share prices rise due to improved corporate performances, the burden on taxpayers would be reduced.

But some within the utility doubt that the share prices will increase over time.

Since it was pointed out from the very beginning that there would be limits to what TEPCO could shoulder, having the central government bear some of that burden can be considered a move in a more realistic direction.

Still, little debate was conducted during the Upper House election in the summer over the government providing assistance to TEPCO.

Normally, when companies undertake rehabilitation after racking up huge debts, shareholders and financial institutions that provided the loans would be asked to absorb some of the losses.

However, since the central government has provided 1 trillion yen in capital to TEPCO and because of concerns about the effect on paying compensation, bankruptcy proceedings were never an option with TEPCO.

That means taxpayers’ wallets will take a hit while shareholders are left free of bearing any responsibility for the mess that TEPCO is now in.

(This article was compiled from reports by Daisuke Fukuma, Noriyoshi Ohtsuki, Mari Fujisaki and Takashi Ebuchi.)

Panel decides to pay additional damages to long-term Fukushima evacuees, asahi, 11/23/13

The government panel responsible for deciding compensation levels for the victims of the Fukushima nuclear disaster said Nov. 22 that people who face prolonged evacuation from their homes will receive additional sums.

Lump-sum damages will primarily be paid to residents of the “difficult-to-return zones,” where annual radiation levels exceed 50 millisieverts. In these areas, the government evacuation order is expected to remain in place for the foreseeable future, and full-fledged decontamination and infrastructure recovery operations have yet to be planned.

The decision reflects a new policy by the government and ruling coalition to bolster support to evacuees on the assumption some will never be able to return to their homes.

The nuclear damage compensation dispute resolution center, set up under the science ministry, will include the new damages in additional compensation guidelines to be compiled in December.

Residents from areas under evacuation orders have already received lump-sum damages to help compensate for mental stress and suffering. Those payments ranged from 1.2 million yen to 6 million yen ($12,000 to $60,000), depending on where they lived.

The additional compensation is also expected to cover people who lived in two other evacuation zones with lower radiation levels in the towns of Okuma and Futaba, which co-host the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.

The damages will be paid regardless of whether residents eventually return home. Evacuees who are not able to return will receive more than those from areas where evacuation orders are lifted.

The dispute resolution center also proposed that evacuees who bought new homes after they relocated receive additional compensation equivalent to 50-100 percent of the difference between the value of land where they lived before the accident and the newly bought land.

Government finally decides on basic policy to help Fukushima victims、asahi, 8/31/2013

The Asahi Shimbun

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The central government has finalized its basic policy for providing support to those affected by the 2011 accident at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.

The state minister in charge of reconstruction, Takumi Nemoto, announced the measures Aug. 30.

Under the basic policy, 33 municipalities in eastern and central Fukushima Prefecture will be designated as eligible for support measures. All the areas approved recorded high radiation levels soon after the 2011 Fukushima nuclear accident.

While some disaster victims hailed the announcement as an important first step, others questioned why the government’s plan does not cover individuals outside Fukushima Prefecture.

Both houses of the Diet originally passed the law providing support to victims of the disaster in June 2012, but the central government did not put together a basic policy that included specific measures to implement the law until now.

That led to the filing of a lawsuit earlier this month by some victims who were fed up with the government’s lack of action.

In the areas designated eligible for state-funded support, the central government plans to construct medical facilities and implement measures to support children attending school.

And despite criticism of the basic policy, it does actually leave open the possibility that those who moved outside of Fukushima due to the disaster may become eligible for some assistance as well.

One individual who said the basic policy was an important first step was Takeshi Murakami, 37, who evacuated from Fukushima city to Niigata city. “I hope the government provides realistic support that meets the needs of individual evacuees,” he said.

One group of disaster victims that lobbied the central government for aid also praised some of the measures in the new policy, particularly the decision to allow private-sector organizations to provide support to evacuees and the securing of staff to conduct thyroid testing for children.

However, not all had praise for the new measures: Tokiko Noguchi, who was among the plaintiffs who filed the lawsuit against the central government over the delay in providing timely relief, criticized the fact that the entire prefecture of Fukushima was not deemed eligible for assistance.

There was also criticism that areas outside of Fukushima Prefecture that registered high radiation readings were not included in the basic policy despite the minister in charge of reconstruction giving his assurance that necessary measures would be implemented if officials felt there was a need.

In February, nine cities in northwestern Chiba Prefecture jointly submitted a request to the Reconstruction Agency asking that it implement measures to better manage the health of residents. Officials from those municipalities were puzzled at the fact that their cities were not designated as being eligible for the support measures passed by the Diet. The cities plan to further study the government’s basic policy before deciding what course of action they will next take.

The government’s new policy also states that a panel of experts will consider what health management measures for residents should be implemented for prefectures neighboring Fukushima.



Fukushima Residents to Sue Govt over Law on Victim Support, jiji, 8/20/2013

Tokyo, Aug. 20 (Jiji Press)–A total of 19 residents of Fukushima Prefecture plan to file a suit to demand that the Japanese government support victims of the 2011 nuclear accident under a law enacted last year, informed sources said Tuesday.
They had lived outside areas that were designated by the government as evacuation zones after the accident at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant run by Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s .
In the suit to be filed with Tokyo District Court Thursday, they will accuse the government of failing to draw up detailed measures more than one year after the June 2012 enactment of the law designed to support victims of the nuclear accident.
They will ask the court to recognize the government’s inaction as illegal as well as their eligibility for support measures under the law, according to lawyer Kenji Fukuda. The residents will also demand one yen each in state compensation.
The suit will aim to ask the government to implement support measures, instead of seeking individual benefits, Fukuda said.


Futaba town office returns to Fukushima Pref. , fukushima minpo, 6/18/13

The Futaba municipal government held a ceremony on June 17 to mark the opening of a new office in the city of Iwaki, Fukushima Prefecture.
All the town’s residents have evacuated since the outbreak of the nuclear disaster in March 2011 at the Fukushima Daiichi power plant. It took two years and three months for the town government to return to its home prefecture.
The town government built a temporary office in Iwaki and moved the functions of the town office there from the city of Kazo, Saitama Prefecture, just north of Tokyo.
It was the fourth time for the Futaba town government to move its office since the outbreak of the nuclear disaster.
In a speech at the opening ceremony, Futaba Mayor Shiro Izawa said the town government and residents face various tasks, such as radioactivity decontamination work, compensation for damage from the nuclear disaster and the reopening of schools.
Izawa said he will settle the problems one by one steadily and that the municipal government’s Iwaki office will be a key foothold for Futaba’s reconstruction.
Of the town government’s 89 staffers, 67 are based at the Iwaki office. The town government will make its office in Kazo a Saitama branch office, and open a new branch in the city of Koriyama, Fukushima Prefecture. Eleven officials will be assigned to each of the two branch offices.
According to the Futaba municipal government, 3,783 Futaba residents have evacuated within Fukushima Prefecture, while 3,131 have evacuated outside the prefecture.
After the outbreak of the nuclear disaster, the Futaba town government moved its office to the town of Kawamata, Fukushima Prefecture, the city of Saitama, capital of Saitama Prefecture, and the city of Kazo.


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