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Japan Must Learn from the Lessons of the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant Accident
On November 26th last year, the Japanese government received a harsh warning concerning its handling of the Fukushima accident from the UN Special Rapporteur advising the UN Human Rights Council and the UN General Assembly, concerning rights to physical and mental health. Now, more than three months since the report, none of these serious concerns have been dealt with. The Japanese government must address these issues immediately before the final report is to be presented to the Human Rights Council in June 2013.
The national standard for radiation exposure is 1mSV/year. Citizens, especially families with young children, living in areas contaminated by radiation due to the Fukushima accident who are anticipated to receive levels of exposure beyond this national standard should have the right to evacuate, in other words, they should receive government support if they choose to relocate.
A comprehensive compensation regime must be established immediately for those that have been displaced or who have suffered economic damage due to the accident.
In spite of the fact that the The National Diet of Japan Fukushima Nuclear Accident Independent Investigation Commission (NAIIC), appointed by the national Diet, found that the accident was clearly man-made, there has as yet been no investigation or criminal prosecution of individuals who held official capacities in TEPCO, the government, and other institutes whose decisions lead to the Fukushima accident. This situation must be ameliorated immediately.
The Nuclear Regulatory Authority (NRA) passed nuclear power accident evacuation guidelines on 27 February. Japan’s national broadcasting corporation NHK reported that whereas over 3155 public comments were submitted on the draft, they all went virtually unheeded. According to NHK, the comments addressed such issues as over-restricted distribution of potassium iodine, and the need to lower radiation levels set to trigger evacuation plans. Nuclear regulation continues to be opaque and/or not responsive to public input.
Emergency evacuation plans being prepared in Japan cannot cope with a serious nuclear power accident. On 31 March, Shunichi Tanaka, chairman of the NRA, hinted that a legal framework should be put in place whereby nuclear power plants cannot operate without evacuation plans.
The government states categorically that MACCS2, the radiation dispersal model currently being used in the event of an accident, is inaccurate beyond 30 kilometers. However, at the same time, the NRA’s recently issued standards that would trigger distribution of stable iodine, food restrictions, and temporary evacuation if and when environmentally-monitored radiation levels exceed 20 microsieverts/hour. Areas of Fukushima City located 60 kilometers from the Fukushima Daiichi reached levels in excess of this standard during the Fukushima accident.
Local governments responsible for areas within 30-some kilometers of a nuclear power plan have been ordered by the Japanese national government to submit evacuation plans by March18th. The historic capital of Japan, Kyoto City, is one of them. Kyoto Prefecture officials admit that in the event of a large nuclear power accident emergency, some type of measures may need to be taken 50 to 60 kilometers from the plant. This would include areas in Kyoto including the Old Imperial Palace, the world-famous Golden Pavilion, the international conference hall where the Kyoto Protocol was signed, and Kyoto City Hall itself.
The emergency plans being formulated this month do not include countermeasures in the event of radioactive contamination of Lake Biwa ,which provides water to 14.5 million citizens in the Kansai region of Japan. The northern end of Lake Biwa is located 28 kilometers from nuclear power plants in Fukui Prefecture.
The Ohi Nuclear Power Plant Unit 3 and 4 continue to operate without new post-Fukushima nuclear safety standards in place. (These standards are to be put in place in July this year.) It is of great concern that reactors at Ohi are operating in violation of seismic safety guidelines that were put in place before Fukushima, on 20 December 2011. The guidelines state that if an active fault is suspected to exist under a nuclear power plant site, no important facility at the site could be located above it. (The emergency cooling pipes for Ohi Units 3 and 4 cross such a fault.) In July, NRA appointed an expert committee to investigate the site. None of the experts have stated the fault is not active. Has Japan really learned from the Fukushima accident if it does not even comply with its own seismic safety guidelines put in place before Fukushima? Ohi Units 3 and 4 should be shut down immediately.
The verdict on a lawsuit seeking a provisional injunction to shut down Ohi Units 3 and 4 filed against Kansai Electric by 262 citizens will be handed down the end of March or beginning of April. Depending on the verdict, Ohi could be ordered shut before its scheduled outage in September.
Release Provided by Green Action:
Founded in 1991, Green Action is a Japanese citizens organization (NGO) campaigning to stop Japan's plutonium program. Based in Kyoto, Green Action provides timely information in Japanese and English about nuclear fuel cycle issues. We believe Japanese energy policy should shift away from nuclear fuel cycle development to advancement of conservation, energy efficiency, and renewable energy sources.
Collaborating with other citizen groups, Green Action has successfully campaigned to bring about a de facto moratorium on Japan's program to use plutonium-uranium mixed oxide (MOX) fuel in Japanese commercial nuclear power plants. We continue to oppose government and utility plans to implement this 'pluthermal' program.
Green Action is also campaigning to prevent the start-up of the Rokkasho Reprocessing Plant in Aomori Prefecture, northern Japan. If operated, this plant would separate out as much as 7 or 8 tons of nuclear weapons usable plutonium a year. We also work with other citizen groups to build national opposition to Japan's fast breeder reactor, Monju. Green Action is the international office for and co-founder of Stop Nuclear Waste Campaign.
Green Action networks regularly with domestic and international citizen groups to address pertinent issues concerning Japan's plutonium program. We petition and hold negotiations with government agencies and electric utilities, initiate or participate in legal action, inform and lobby policymakers, brief and alert media and countries on the route of Japanese nuclear shipments, send delegations abroad, and invite international speakers to Japan. We also address policy change at government roundtables and symposia.