05/31/2011 Nuclear Crisis/Minami-soma City

Pocket

(Chairman) The next speaker is Mr. Yasuo Tanaka.
(Yasuo Tanaka)  I’m Yasuo Tanaka from New Party Nippon.I’d like once again to ask questions on the basic and fundamental issues, on behalf of New Party Nippon and its parliamentary partner, the People’s New Party.First, I’d like to ask Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano.On April 23rd, you announced at a news conference the designation of a planned evacuation zone. I understand the proposal has yet to obtain cabinet approval, but the news conference was held on the instruction of Mr. Naoto Kan who heads the nuclear disaster control headquarters.
A document released at the time stipulates that the planned evacuation zone basically covers an area where the cumulative radiation dosage may reach 23 millisieverts within one year after the accident. The measure calls on people living in those areas to evacuate accordingly, within one month. On the other hand, the government allows radiation exposure of up to 20 milliseiverts per year for children attending schools in Fukushima prefecture.
The government is warning residents to move out of the zone because the radiation levels there may reach 20 milliseiverts. But at the same time, it’s reassuring schools that it’s safe for children as long as the dosage stays below 20 milliseiverts. There’s a contradiction and I want to hear your explanation on this.(Yukio Edano) We did ask people living in the planned evacuation zone to evacuate on the ground that annual radiation exposure in the area might reach 20 millisieverts But there seems to be some misunderstanding that the government finds it acceptable for schools to stay open as long as radiation exposure won’t reach 20 millisieverts. But that’s not true. In fact, we are trying our best to prevent the dosage from reaching 20 millisieverts. We have set a goal to keep radiation exposure at schools at one millisievert or lower. Our goal is to reduce radiation exposure from 20 to 1. We never intended to accept radiation exposure of 20 millisieverts. We regret having failed to clarify our intent sufficiently. Nevertheless, the government figures are based on global standards which warn people against radiation exposure of 20 millisieverts per year. In that sense, they are consistent.
(Yasuo Tanaka) I believe we should think in a more simplistic manner. When you say 20 milliseiverts, you are already contradicting what you said before. It’s as if the law is not the same in the morning and at night, as the saying goes. The conventional ceiling had been set at 1 milliseivert. Remember? Incidentally, 84 thousand people are currently working at nuclear power plants across the nation. They’ve been exposed to average 1 point 5 milliseiverts of radiation per year. You say the government is trying to control the radiation level below 20 milliseiverts. But as I said at budget committee meetings on April 29th and May 16th, the nature of radiation keeps changing in terms of damage, concentration and accumulation. As shown on this panel, radiation doesn’t spread in a concentric fashion.
Aviation or train accidents would tragically affect certain groups of people during certain time periods at certain locations. But the impact of nuclear accidents is unlimited. It would affect the sea, the air, the ground, under the ground and under the sea. Neither the extent nor the period, nor the number of communities to be affected is predictable. Indeed, our land is not only contaminated but occupied by radiation.
For instance, Minami-soma city is located within a 20 to 30 kilometer radius of the crippled nuclear power plant. The amount of radiation detected in the city is one-third that of the prefectural capital of Fukushima city from which TEPCO and Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency officials had escaped. Mr. Edano, you too have children. I hope you would use a little bit of your imagination to understand the issue here. There’s more. The government has designated so-called the Emergency Evacuation Preparation zone and is telling people in Minami-soma city, located within 20 to 30 kilometers from the crippled plant, always to be prepared to take shelter indoors or find shelter elsewhere on their own in the event of an emergency. That means the government is virtually telling people they can live in the city if they want to. But it’s also telling people if they want to live in the city, they should do so at their own responsibility. The government is shifting its responsibility to make the decision to the people in the city and their local government in the name of AUTONOMY. If so, the people naturally need sufficient information to make the decision. But information they receive is always late or belated. Today, the government may say, ‘there’s no need to worry,’ but it may say something different a few months later when pressure mounts from overseas. The government has a credibility problem. Besides, TEPCO has already admitted it will be impossible to complete the roadmap before the end of this year.
Let me move onto the next panel. In fact, Minami-soma city had a state-designated a 20 kilometer zone where people are prohibited from living any more. The city also has a 20 to 30 kilometer zone as well as a 30 plus kilometer zone. So the city is divided into 3 zones. But technically speaking, there’s one more, a planned evacuation zone. So, the city is now divided into 4 zones.
Note-worthy is that Minami-soma city hasn’t received any TEPCO-related nuclear power subsidy. That means the city has never benefited from nuclear power generation. No gymnasium, no public hall nor city hall has been built, unlike in other municipalities which have benefited from nuclear power generation. The city was independent and free from the nuclear pork. The city is getting sticks but no carrot at all.
I’d like to ask Mr. Edano on the issue of school and hospital.Mr. Edano, you say it’s OK to live in an area 20 to 30 kilometers from the crippled nuclear power plant. But at the same time, you are telling people always to be prepared to evacuate on their own effort. You see, people in Minami-soma city are forced to bear utterly unreasonable situations in terms of medical care and education. Mr. Edano, you must be aware of the situation as you designated the city as an evacuation preparation zone. Please clarify your view on the situation.
(Yukio Edano) The area, designated as emergency evacuation preparation zone, has relatively low accumulation of radioactive substances and therefore, health risks are low. But the nuclear power plant remains unstable. So if the condition at the nuclear power plant suddenly worsens, we may have to ask people living in the area to evacuate immediately. We are asking people who may have difficulty evacuating…for instance, children, pregnant women, people requiring nursing care and hospital inpatients….NOT to enter the area. So nurseries, preschools, elementary, junior and senior high schools are closed.
But unfortunately, there are some children or some patients who have no choice but keep living in the area due to various circumstances. Flexible measures are being taken, for instance, financial support for children to commute to school, as well as medical service support in some medical institutions in the area. At the same time, we are also making efforts to create an environment enabling people to evacuate outside the zone.
(Yasuo Tanaka) But there’s a city hall in the area and supermarkets remain open. A lot of children and sick people, the socially weak, are living in the area. You say it’s safe for the time being, but you and Mr. Katsuya Okada briefly visited an area within a 20 to 30 kilometer radius of the crippled power plant, wearing protective gear which looked very much like a spacesuit. You see, people in the area are living an ordinary life there. We, seven of us, are part of the ruling coalition. Noblesse oblige. We sincerely hope you have faith and determination as the leader with a pubic mission.
Many school-age children live in this 20 to 30 kilometer zone. Seventy percent of the entire city is within the 20 to 30 kilometer zone from the crippled nuclear power plant. It’s called Haramachi district. You know what’s happening there? The children are crammed solid at a school in Kashima district, located more than 30 kilometers from the crippled plant. The children are studying in combined classes, cram-packed in gyms or martial arts facilities with no air-conditioning. They commute to school by bus. They first get together at a school gym located in the 20 to 30 kilometers zone and take the bus. The city charters 20 busses and is paying one million yen per day, out of its pocket.
How would you explain this? People will painfully understand if the government tells them to move out or evacuate. Let me repeat this one more time. People need jobs and accommodations to have a desire to live. The government should provide people with the needs. But instead, the government is telling people, it’s OK to live here, but be prepared to evacuate by your self and we won’t help you.
There’s more. Up north from Minami-soma city, there is Soma city. Nearly 100 people from Minami-soma city have taken shelter at their relatives’ homes in Soma city. It’s reasonable for adjacent Soma city to accept children from its neighbor Minami-soma city. The practice is quite common even in peacetime across the nation. But for some unknown reasons, the Mayor of Soma city is refusing to do so and is also bushing children out of the city.
There are more surprises. On May 23rd, without prior notice, the Fukushima prefectural government issued transfer orders to 100 teachers, saying it should be OK because children are now studying in combined classes. Children in the city experienced terrors of tsunami and are traumatized. The prefectural government should rather add more clinical psychotherapists for children with PTSD. And yet, they are cutting personnel by 100. You may call it AUTONOMY. But our country has universal compulsory education and Right to Education is protected by the constitution.

Fukushima Governor Yuhei Sato was once an upper house member from the Democratic Party of Japan.  Under his guidance, people in Minami-soma city are left abandoned, unprotected and isolated. Would you, as government, have the intention to exercise leadership on this issue?
(Yukio Edano) First of all, I wore protective gear when I visited Minami-soma city. My visit at the time was to provide encouragement to people working in the 20 kilometer zone. I believe they were police officers at the time. We were asking them to wear protective gear when they enter the 20 kilometer zone. If I hadn’t worn the protective gear, I would have contradicted what I was trying to promote at the time. That’s why I wore protective gear and entered the 20 kilometer zone. I didn’t wear it because I would enter the 20 to 30 kilometer zone.
But what Mr. Tanaka just pointed out is a very important issue. If Minami-soma city is paying out of its pocket bussing fees for children to commute to school, the government should seriously do something about it.
As for teachers getting transferred, I will talk with the Education and Science Minister to ensure a good educational environment for children in the city. I will issue instructions to the Education and Science Minister to consult the matter with the Fukushima prefectural government.
(Yasuo Tanaka) I’m asking the government to be more logical, reasonable and decisive. I’m not just asking you to pay for bussing fees. I’m saying the government is allowing people to live in these areas. The government is giving tacit approval for children, the socially-weak, to live in this area.
Minami-soma city has a municipal general hospital with 230 beds. But Fukushima Prefecture only allows the use of only 5 of those beds. The hospital has neurosurgeons and other surgeons. People are living in the city and traffic accidents may occur. People may suffer strokes and there are only 5 beds available. And the use of these 5 beds is limited to only 72 hours for emergencies. The beds can be used for only 3 days. Where would a patient suffering from brain contusion go after being hospitalized for 3 days?
This is totally unrealistic. The situation is just as the same as what happened in Iwojima. There’s no logistics.
In fact, for almost one week after the March 11th earthquake, people in Miniami-soma city had been neglected by TEPCO, the prefectural and the central governments until they finally received an order to remain indoors. They were also told to procure daily necessities on their own. Looking back, 70 percent of Japan’s wartime deaths were caused by starvation, not by fighting. People in Minami-soma city were told to stand-by at home. Then, they were asked to evacuate voluntarily. It wasn’t an order but it was a request for voluntary evacuation. Why? At the time, Kyodo News quoted a government official as saying, if the government issues an order, it will have to pay for the evacuation fees….but since it’s a request, evacuation will be voluntary.
I think it’s a budget cut screening no one would accept. Our Party Establishment Declaration reads… ‘Towards a Japan we can trust. Whatever is wrong, we’ll make it right.’’  The spirit is shared by the People’s New Party and it means whatever we do is for the sake of the communities, for the families, and for each individual person.
The mayor of Minami-soma city handed a petition comprising 11 requests to two vice ministers who visited the city on the 21st. In the petition, the mayor asked the government to supply radiation detection film badges for all school children. The government promised to reply in one week, but it hasn’t. Please reply immediately and promise the immediate delivery of radiation detection film badges for whom the government call ‘the socially-weak.’
I’d like to conclude my questioning by having Mr. Edano respond to this.
(Yukio Edano) If Kyodo News reported such a story, that’s misinformation. There’s no such fact. At any rate, the government and TEPCO have been working to reimburse local communities for expenses which include costs incurred on a voluntary basis.
If there’s any delay in responding to such requests, I will immediately call for swift response from those concerned. I’m not certain how many radiation detection badges are procurable at this moment. I haven’t checked it since I wasn’t informed of the question beforehand. But I will issue instructions as soon as possible.
(Chairman) This concludes Mr. Tanaka’s questioning.