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Monday, 11 August 2014

Municipalities not prepared to accept nuclear evacuees

Only 13 percent of municipalities around Japan that are supposed to accept evacuees in the event of a nuclear disaster have concrete plans in place for such a situation, a survey by the Mainichi Shimbun has found.
This is much lower than the around 60 percent of municipalities within 30 kilometers of nuclear plants that have plans in place for emergency evacuation of their residents.
The survey was conducted in June and July on 362 municipal governments that are specified in the evacuation plans of municipalities around 16 nuclear plants in Japan as locations for their residents to evacuate. Survey responses were received from 333 of the municipalities.
Only 47 of the municipalities responded that they had established plans for taking on the evacuees. Ninety-three said they were in the process of making such procedures, but 179 said they have not and are not making such plans. Many municipalities blamed the delay on the time required to work things out with the prefectural and other municipal governments, but one municipality, Kamo in Niigata Prefecture, complained, "It would be almost impossible to accept a number of evacuees equivalent to 43 percent of our population."

For 10 nuclear plants -- Tomari in Hokkaido, Higashidori in Aomori Prefecture, four in Fukui Prefecture, Shimane in Shimane Prefecture, Ikata in Ehime Prefecture, Genkai in Saga Prefecture and Sendai in Kagoshima Prefecture -- all the municipalities within a 30-kilometer radius have set up evacuation plans for their residents. However, the percentages of the municipalities that are supposed to accept these residents that have plans in place to accept them are all low -- none for the Tomari plant, 33 percent for Higashidori, 13 percent for the Fukui Prefecture plants, 18 percent for Shimane, 5 percent for Ikata, 20 percent for Genkai and 11 percent for Sendai.

While the national government's nuclear disaster response policy calls on municipalities within 30 kilometers of nuclear plants to make evacuation plans, it does not call on the municipalities that would accept these evacuees to make plans. This lack of support from the government is behind the low number of destination municipalities with plans in place, and another reason thought to be responsible is that municipal governments have had little involvement with many of the decisions on where evacuees would be sent -- many of these decisions were made under the direction of prefectural governments or the Union of Kansai Governments.

Naomi Kamioka, an expert on evacuating residents from nuclear disasters, says, "In the Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant disaster, evacuees were forced to stay long-term at their evacuation destinations. Without making plans for the acceptance of evacuees together with the evacuation plans, (the plans that have been made so far) are nothing more than a reshuffling of residents, and lack substance."

The national government has not investigated how many municipalities have plans for accepting nuclear disaster evacuees, so this survey marks the first time that the situation has come to light.

August 11, 2014(Mainichi Japan)
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