SVCF Bulletin No. 51 issued on May 23, 2014

On April 24 (Thursday), 2014, the SVCF 31st regular Diet meeting was held in meeting room No. B102 of the House of Councilors Hall.  Director Takayasu Sugiyama, in the chair, called the meeting to order at 11:00 a.m.  First, President Nobuhiro Shiotani briefed on “SVCF monitoring activities and related matters” based on the results which have been achieved in Naraha-machi, Fukushima prefecture.  More details below.

Subsequently, lawyer Ms. Reiko Kobayashi, a member of the disaster reconstruction aid committee of the Japan federation of bar association, who has been providing legal aid service for the victims of nuclear accident, talked on the subject “Calamity of Victims by Nuclear Accident”, speaking from her actual experiences with many victims, dwelled on the reality of disaster caused by earthquake and nuclear accidents.

Later, Mr. Hitoshi Yamaguchi, researcher for nuclear policy planning by the energy agency of the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry, and Mr. Nobuhiro Abe, assistant director of the decommissioning and contaminated water prevention secretariat in the cabinet office nuclear emergency response headquarters, briefed on their respective schemes.  See the column below

In addition, Diet member, Hiroshi Sakurai, the House of Representatives, Liberal Democratic Party, who has regularly attended the meetings in the diet, saluted and reported on the updating issues.

SVCF Monitoring Activities and Related Matters” by president Nobuhiro Shiotani

In a report on “attitude for the additional radiation exposure dose of radioactivity by 1 mSv per year” issued by the Ministry of Environment, the indoor air dose rate is estimated to equal 40% of the outdoor rate.  However, judging from our measuring results, this “equal 40%” is wrong; the proportion reaches 70 to 80% in the actual environment.  Our monitoring activities, which have been executed by request of residents, are useful not only as a basis for these persons’ deliberations whether or not to return home, but they also serve as evidence for the necessity of additional clean-up. We are not a policy proposal group but a real action group.  Unfortunately, we have not been permitted to fulfill our original objective, i.e. to work in the stricken Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant; however, our monitoring activities in the surrounding area are well suited for our objective as a public-interest corporation.”

Calamity of Victims by Nuclear Power Plant Accident” by Ms. Reiko Kobayashi

Visit to Chernobyl nuclear power plant

I visited Ukraine as a member of the disaster reconstruction aid committee of the Japan federation of bar associations, and executed a hearing investigation on the progress of decommissioning Chernobyl nuclear power plant and health condition in the low dose exposure region.

The reality that we found was that the sarcophagus is far from air tight. Chernobyl No. 4 reactor has not been sealed yet since the accident.  Many holes in the roof still remain unplugged.

It has passed 28 years since the accident; however, our observation point (an open space at 300 meters from the No. 4 reactor) showed a radiation reading of 4 mSv per hour (exceeding normal conditions by 100 times).

The reactor building has aged severely and is on the verge of collapse.  In February 2012, a part of the roof broke down by the weight of accumulated snow. As the structure deteriorates further, no effective countermeasures have been provided.  Recent political turmoil seems to affect the process of recovery quite adversely.  There is no concrete scheme toward the decommissioning Chernobyl nuclear power plant.  It seems that Ukraine alone cannot achieve the decommission.

March 11, 2011

I keenly sympathize with the victims who lost home, job and family members due to the great earthquake and consequential tsunami, since I also was in a crucial stage of my life at that time. As I forced myself in my three tasks, namely, as a lawyer, mother and homemaker, I could not sleep well, lost appetite, and finally was diagnosed with depression. Making the matter worse, I fell out with my husband and we were divorced. Under a clause in the divorce, the care of my children was given to my husband.  I lost my job, family and my own children, and became alone. As March 11 2011 happened, I faced a low point of my life.

The Japan federation of bar association immediately established the headquarters for accident aid and began extensive relief activities in free phone or in-person counseling service. We compiled these hearing results into a proper database, clarified legal interpretation, and began lobbying among Diet members. This led to a legislation giving guidelines for the exemption of relief loans by the financial services agency.

This loan exemption has been an urgent and serious goal for victims since the great Hanshin Awaji earthquake.  Even if our house collapses due to an earthquake, our mortgage loan remains intact. If we want to build a new house, we have to establish another mortgage loan while we keep paying the remaining debt. This impairs revival efforts of the victims. It is said that unbearable burdens of these double loans, after the Hanshin Awaji great earthquake, caused lots of insolvent debtors and suicide victims.

This system has not been subject to legalization, due to strong resistance from the financial world.  This is a challenging issue.

During the all-out consultation meeting, I was in a branch office of the disaster reconstruction aid committee of the Japan federation of bar association established in Sendai. Sendai local lawyers, suddenly victims themselves, struggled with difficulties under lingering austere condition without gas and bath.  I saw big friction issues occur from time to time. I counseled everyday while praying within me, with great assistance from local people.

The issue of nuclear power generation compensation

The atomic energy dispute examination committee of Japan issued, in august 2013, an interim standard for the compensation by nuclear accident.  It stipulates:

1.  In principle, ¥ 100,000 is to be paid per month as indemnity.

2. Half of the above amount (¥  50,000) is to be paid after 6 month from the occurrence of the accident.

3.  “Increase of living cost” is deemed inclusive in the above indemnity of ¥ 100,000.

In accordance with this standard, TEPCO issued a bill and sent it to refugees. The bill was a thick booklet, listing a lot of household goods that were supposed to be covered by the indemnity; refrigerator, washing machine, rice cooker, kitchen ware, television, vacuum cleaner, bedclothes, kotatsu, bicycle. Also covered were supposedly the increase of living costs due to evacuation such as food, education, transportation and clothing, as well as other expenses like the purchase of a dosimeter, pet care and so forth.

Following the guidance of the atomic energy dispute examination committee of Japan, TEPCO insisted these all be included in the compensation of ¥ 100,000 per month.

The Japan federation of bar association remonstrated against this interim standard which ignores the reality of victims and proposed a statement of opposition in the name of our president.

On the other hand, I formulated an “Easy petition for damage compensation toward nuclear accident” in response to a request from (then) mayor Idogawa of Futaba-machi. As this paper was widely referred to and utilized by lawyers who engaged in the compensation, that standard was to be amended and reapplied.  Among 1,000 compromises handled by the atomic energy dispute examination committee of Japan, there was not a single case where the indemnity was cut down by half, to ¥ 50,000.

TEPCO came to follow this new rule partly in the direct demand to TEPCO under the administrative advice of the central government.

Though the atomic energy dispute examination committee of Japan stood to “blanket value of ¥ 100,000 per month”, they finally acknowledged the deviance in severe refuge life.  Depending on a case-by-case basis, they came to reach a compromise of 10, 20, 30, or 50 percent increase.

I take pride in my “Easy petition for damage compensation toward nuclear accident” which to a certain degree helped change the basis of compensation regarding nuclear accident.

A bill to amend the nuclear damage liability facilitation fund law

Major points stated by a researcher, Mr. Hitoshi Yamaguchi

The gist of this amendment lies in an addition of decommissioning works to the scope of the atomic energy dispute examination committee of Japan.  By this revision, the central government is to lead a new scheme fully to tackle the decommissioning work.

The name of this organization is changed from the “nuclear damage liability and decommissioning aid organization” to the “liability, decommissioning, and contaminated water center”.

In this organization, a decision-making body for decommissioning and related issues, “decommissioning technology committee” is established.

A new scope of work to assure suitable measures “advice, education, and admonition” is added.

They promote research and development for decommissioning.

The central government strengthens a monitoring function.

As for Mr. Yamaguchi’s explanation, diet member Hiroe Makiyama, one of organizers of this meeting, tenaciously asked: “As you say, the central government takes the lead – what does that mean, and what shifts of responsibility is involved? What budgetary and technological approach can be actually applied?  How does the new system change the current situation?”

Researcher Yamaguchi replied that the main body of business, TEPCO, still bears the total responsibility, but the newly established decommissioning technology committee takes a more positive role to support and monitor the process.

On the other hand, a budget for this new support and monitor system is under consideration and is only a pending issue for the future. In the end, it was assured that we would continue a question and answer session in the next round scheduled on may 29.