TOPICS from the Prime Minister's Office

August 29(Monday)

Matters undertaken by the Kan administration:
A general report (5)
Recovery and reconstruction from the great earthquake disaster and transforming Japan's energy policy

 

As the final entry in this series looking back over the efforts of the Kan administration thus far, this article discusses the handling of the great earthquake disaster since March 11 as well as the reformulation of strategies on energy and the environment.

(Numbers in red are sequential throughout this series of articles.)

 

Recovery from the Great East Japan Earthquake

The government has been injecting manpower intensively since immediately after the great earthquake disaster occurred, including police, firefighting teams, the Self-Defense Forces, and the Japan Coast Guard, among others.  In addition to devoting its utmost efforts to relief and rescue operations for the disaster victims, the government has been implementing livelihood support for the victims.  In particular, on the day following the quake, Prime Minister Kan directed the Self-Defense Forces to increase its deployment preparations to a scale of 100,000 personnel, with the Self-Defense Forces engaging in the largest-scale disaster-related deployment operations in SDF history [48], of some 107,000 forces deployed at the peak.  The SDF played an absolutely critical role in operations ranging from lifesaving efforts to livelihood assistance for the disaster victims.

With regard to the disposal of rubble, removal is progressing steadily through the efforts of local municipalities against the backdrop of an extremely large amount of waste generated through the disaster.  The removal of rubble from locations near where residents conduct their daily lives has already been completed in over 90% of municipalities, with the remainder expected to be removed by the end of August [49].  In addition, there has been nearly full recovery of major lifeline infrastructure and transportation.

In order to ensure accommodation for the disaster victims, some 49,000 temporary residences have already been completed, and in combination with private-sector rented accommodation, approximately 110,000 residences [50] have been secured in total.

Moreover, in order to provide critical information to people who evacuated, the government developed a special public relations structure for the disaster-stricken areas [51], creating and distributing newspapers in poster format posted on the walls at evacuation centers, as well as handbooks and flyers, and also making use of TV, radio, Twitter, and other such means.

 

Efforts for Reconstruction from the Great Earthquake Disaster

To facilitate recovery and reconstruction from the earthquake disaster, the government also expeditiously implemented necessary fiscal measures [52], including a first supplementary budget on a scale of 4 trillion yen (submitted to the Diet on April 28; enacted May 2) and a second supplementary budget on a scale of 2 trillion yen (submitted July 15; enacted July 25), in addition to utilizing supplementary expenditures in series beginning three days after the disaster struck.

In addition, the administration established the "Reconstruction Design Council in Response to the Great East Japan Earthquake" [53], which has convened 12 times since April.  On June 25, the Council compiled the report, "Towards Reconstruction - Hope beyond the Disaster."  The "Basic Act on Reconstruction from the Great East Japan Earthquake" was enacted on June 20 [54], and on the basis of this Act, the Reconstruction Headquarters in response to the Great East Japan Earthquake [55] was created on June 27.

In line with the recommendations made by this Council, on July 29, the Reconstruction Headquarters in response to the Great East Japan Earthquake approved the "Basic Guidelines for Reconstruction in response to the Great East Japan Earthquake," [56] thereby clearly laying forth an overall vision of efforts by the national government for reconstruction.  This vision includes such elements as (i) the establishment of a system of "Special Zone for Reconstruction," (ii) the introduction of "Easy-to-use Grants," (iii) the scale of reconstruction operations and fiscal resources, (iv) various kinds of policies and measures for reconstruction, (v) reconstruction from the nuclear disaster, and (vi) a framework for reconstruction assistance.

 

Efforts towards Bringing the Nuclear Accident under Stable Control and Providing Compensation

In bringing the Fukushima nuclear accident under stable control, the government and relevant entities have been working together in line with the compiled "Roadmap," getting the circulation cooling system into operation and achieving stability in cooling the reactors while also restraining the release of new radioactive materials.  In this way, the objectives established in "Step 1" were successfully attained [57].

In light of this situation, efforts are now underway to achieve a cold shutdown, aiming towards the objective of "Step 2," namely that "the release of radioactive materials be controlled and the radiation dose be restrained significantly."

With regard to the nuclear disaster, an approach to revising the evacuation zones and other matters was decided [58], whereby an approach was coordinated that would promptly review directions covering evacuations and other situations upon a certain number of conditions being met.  In addition, through the provision of funds for the "Fund for the Health of Victims of the Nuclear Accident and Children," [59] established by the Fukushima Prefectural Government, the government is supporting long-term health management for the residents, as well as decontamination operations.

Regarding compensation for the nuclear disaster, "Midterm Guidelines for Determining the Scope of Damages from the Nuclear Accident" were formulated [60] in August.  In addition, the "Act to Establish Nuclear Damage Compensation Facilitation Corporation" was enacted [61].  In doing so, the government has prepared a framework for assistance that will achieve prompt and appropriate compensation for damages for the persons affected.

 

Raising Issues with a View to the Transformation of Japan's Energy Policy

The Kan administration has undertaken various efforts towards the transformation of Japan's energy policy on the basis of the experience of the Great East Japan Earthquake.  In an address delivered at a meeting of the OECD, Prime Minister Kan announced a target of "increasing the share of renewable energy within our total electric power supply to at least 20 percent by the earliest possible timing in the 2020s." [62] At a July 13 Press Conference, he also clarified his thinking that Japan should aim to achieve "a society that is not dependent on nuclear power". [63]

Based on these statements, the government prepared an "interim compilation of discussion points towards the creation of innovative energy and environmental strategies" [64] and reviewed the approach taken within its current energy policy starting with an entirely blank slate.  It was decided that among other endeavors, the government would create scenarios characterized by a reduced dependence on nuclear energy and conduct an exhaustive verification study on nuclear energy-related policies, with a view to realizing a new optimal energy mix.

Further, the administration submitted to the Diet a bill to mandate the purchase by electric companies of electricity generated through the use of renewable energy sources at a certain price and for a certain period of time stipulated by the government (the Act to Promote Renewable Energies) and this bill was passed on August 26 [65].

 

Policies to Prevent Accidents at Existing Nuclear Plants

In consideration of the special circumstances that there is a high possibility of an earthquake of approximate magnitude 8 striking the Tokai region within the next 30 years, the Prime Minister made the judgment to request the suspension of operations at Chubu Electric Power Company's Hamaoka Nuclear Power Station, in order to safeguard the peace of mind and safety of the public [66].

Moreover, the administration introduced safety assessments of nuclear plants modeled after the stress tests performed in Europe, and in addition to the safety checks performed by the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency (NISA) based on existing laws and regulations, the administration decided on a government policy under which comprehensive safety assessments based on new procedures and rules are to be conducted in a form that involves Japan's Nuclear Safety Commission [67].

Moreover, in May, the Cabinet decided to establish the "Investigation and Verification Committee on the Accidents at the Fukushima Nuclear Power Station of Tokyo Electric Power Company," [68] which will carry out a multifaceted investigation and verification of the nuclear accident from the point of view of the people through a transparent and neutral process.

Furthermore, a Cabinet Decision was taken to separate NISA's Nuclear Safety Regulation Department from the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) to create the "Nuclear Safety and Security Agency" (NSSA; provisional name) as an external agency affiliated with the Ministry of the Environment and to centralize within that Agency affairs related to nuclear safety regulations [69].

 

This five-part series has overviewed the matters in which the Kan administration has been engaged.  While many endeavors have been initiated, they are all still only part way to completion.  Through its website and other means, the Prime Minister's Office will continue in the future to work to convey to the public government policies in a manner that is easy to understand.



August 28, 2011
Matters undertaken by the Kan administration:
A general report (4)
Diplomacy and National Security
August 27, 2011
Matters undertaken by the Kan administration:
A general report (3)
Measures Taken from the Point of View of the People as Members of Society at Both the National and Local Levels
August 26, 2011
Matters undertaken by the Kan administration:
A general report (2)
Integrated Reforms to the Economy, Government Finances, and Social Security
August 25, 2011
Matters undertaken by the Kan administration:
A general report (1)
Reforms to the modalities of politics and government
July 19, 2011
Please read this! Recommendations from the Reconstruction Design Council in Response to the Great East Japan Earthquake
March 4, 2011
The inaugural session of the "Opening of Japan" Forum: Why open up Japan now?
February 18, 2011
Signing a Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement with India!