The Reconstruction Agency recently designated 33 municipalities in Fukushima Prefecture to be selected areas for legal support. This policy complies with the law, called the Act to Support Livelihood of Disaster Victims and Children, and is designed to respond to anxieties over health and to stabilize living conditions of residents forced to be evacuated after the fatal accident. However, the designation of localities is far from the core idea of the law.
1 MILLIMETER SIEVERT LEVEL SHOULD BE BASIC CRITERION
The Act to Support Livelihood of Disaster Victims and Children was proposed by the initiative of ultra-partisan lawmakers in June last year to be approved unanimously in the Diet.
The law provides to designate areas in which radiation effect exceeds a certain level as 'selected municipalities to be given legal support', and specifies that the state shall help evacuees-victims with living conditions and medical services. It stipulates that residents' individual decisions should be respected; to stay or to evacuate, and to return home from evacuation in the designated municipalities.
Exposure Level to Radioactivity
The law does not specify clearly what damages radioactivity will inflict on the human health. And therefore, the precautionary principle is the basis to make judgment. The maximum exposure level to radioactivity was set in the law precisely as 1 millimeter-sievert (Sv) a year for an ordinary citizen before the 2011 accident.
The maximum level is a pledge of the government with people, and it cannot be neglected on the ground that the severe accident happened. For this reason the 1 millimeter-Sv level should be applied to designating municipalities for legal support. The point is whether the level of 1 millimeter-Sv is safe in the scientific context but the government is obliged to respect what was originally legislated.
However, the Reconstruction Agency did not tell a criterion on radioactive level in its announcement of the basic policy, but designated 33 cities and towns in the prefecture as municipalities to be supported. That is like putting the cart before the horse. Thirteen city authorities excluded from the selection of the neighboring Ibaraki, Tochigi and Chiba Prefectures sent, reportedly, critical comments, expressing dissatisfactions.
Government must listen to voices of victims
The law itself, originally, was enacted to integrate policies pursued independently and separately by the ministries and the authorities of Fukushima Prefectures in order to finalize a comprehensive plan to meet demands of local people: some of them decided to stay in their hometowns, others, to evacuate, and others, to return to the native towns. Different types of necessities should be clarified.
The law provides to have meetings of residents before formulating the basic plan, but the state authority has never held one to listen directly to the voices. If the government simply uses public comments to give an evasive reply, that is insincere. People doubt whether the government is, from the beginning, intended to split and abandon disaster-hit residents.
One more point to raise here is recent developments; the Nuclear Regulation Authority responded to the government's policy on an early home-return of evacuees and had a first meeting in September, which was attended by a Policy Examination Team on Safety and Relief of Home-Return. An early return is regarded increasingly as a prerequisite.
The government's designation of municipalities and implementation of a policy to promote an early return are far from the idea of the law; that is to mistake the means for the end.
Policy should be reviewed
Mr. Hasegawa Katsumi, who has fled Koriyama City, Fukushima Prefecture, to evacuate in Shizuoka Prefecture, appealed; 'implementation of the law does not mean a solution of all the problems pertained to victims of radiation exposure. What I hope is that the law should acknowledge and advocate the rights of every victim'.
The government must listen to voices of disaster-hit people and immediately review the basic policy to formulate a new one.
October 8, 2013