(Oct. 1, 2012) A year after the Fukushima nuclear power plant was hit by a tsunami that was caused by the Great East Japan Earthquake in March 2011, Japan’s legislature enactedthe Act on Special Measures for Fukushima Reconstruction and Revitalization(Act No. 25 of 2012, Mar. 30, 2012). The Act obligates the government to implement measures to restore the infrastructure, decontaminate irradiated areas, provide medical exams for residents, and restore industries in Fukushima.However, the Act did not sufficiently address the provision of support to improve the daily lives of the nuclear disaster victims.
Therefore, in June 2012, the legislature adopted the Act to Support Nuclear Disaster Victims’ Daily Lives. (Tokyo denryoku genshiryoku jiko ni yori hisai shita kodomo o hajime to suru ju_min to_ no seikatsu o mamori sasaeru tame no hisaisha no seikatsu shien to_ ni kansuru sesaku no suishin ni kansuru ho_ritsu [Law on Promotion of Measures Concerning Disaster Victims’ Daily Life Support in Order to Protect and Assist Residents Who Suffered from the Tokyo Electric Company’s Nuclear Accident, Especially Children], Law No. 48 of 2012, June 27, 2012.) Under the new Act, the government must implement the necessary measures to suppress radiation released from the soil, with priority given to areas in which children and pregnant women stay or pass by, such as their houses, schools, and daycare and school commute routes. (Id. art. 7.) In the areas prepared for cancellation of the evacuation directive (see Background, below), the government must implement measures to make medical service available to residents, help children who missed school due to the disaster catch up on the grade-appropriate curriculum, secure the safety of food prepared in the home and by lunch services at schools, etc. (Id. art. 8.)
The government is also obligated under the Act to support people who moved out of the evacuation area or who returned to it, by assisting them to find places to live and jobs, among other things. (Id. arts. 9 & 10.) In addition, the government must take measures to secure payment of damages to victims by Tokyo Electric Power and also provide support for people who evacuated from areas designated for evacuation under the evacuation directive or from areas designated as “difficult-to-return-home” areas (see Background, below). (Id. art. 11.)
The Act to Support Nuclear Disaster Victims’ Daily Lives sets the philosophy and framework of government support; the concrete measures and details will be determined by Cabinet orders and ministry ordinances. Those measures are supposed to reflect disaster victims’ opinions. (Id. art. 5, ¶ 3.) The Japan Federation of Bar Associations (JFBA) and other NGOs formed the Nuclear Disaster Victims’ Support Network and initiated forums to gather victims’ opinions. (Genpatsu jiko kodomo hisaisha shien ho_Fukushima foramu [Nuclear Accident Children & Victims Support Law, Fukushima Forum] [scheduled for Oct. 13, 2012], JFBA (last visited Sept. 26, 2012).)
After the Fukushima nuclear power plant disaster, the Japanese government designated a 20 kilometer radius from the power plant as an evacuation area and, subsequently, as a “warn-off” zone. Other areas with high radiation were designated as “emergency evacuation preparation” areas, where residents were required to be on standby in case the nuclear disaster worsened. In December 2011, as the Fukushima disaster came under control, the government reviewed the designation of restricted areas and adopted an annual effective radiation dose of 20 mSv as a limit on exposure to radiation. (Nuclear Emergency Response Headquarters, Regarding Basic Ideas on Review of Warn-Off Area and Emergency Evacuation Preparation Areas upon Completion of Step 2 and Future Agenda [in Japanese], at 1-4, Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry website (Dec. 26, 2011).)
At the end of March 2012, based on another government review, the designation of the 20 kilometer radius surrounding Fukushima as a warn-off zone was removed. (Id. at 8-9; Nuclear Emergency Response Headquarters, Regarding Decision Based on the Review on Designation of the Warn-Off Zone and of Emergency Evacuation Preparation Areas [in Japanese], Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry website (Mar. 30, 2012).)
At the same time, the government designated the areas in which the radiation level is below 20 mSv per year as “areas prepared for cancellation of the evacuation directive.” In those areas, cancellation of the government directive to prepare for emergency evacuation is expected in the near future, after infrastructure is restored and decontamination of locales with radiation has progressed. The government also restricted residential use of areas in which the radiation level is between 20 and 50 mSv per year. Entry to such areas for specific purposes is permitted without protective equipment being required for the entry. (Nuclear Disaster Victims’ Support Team, Regarding Notions on Activities in the New Evacuation Directive Areas, Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry website (Mar. 30, 2012).)
The government further designated those areas in which the radiation level is over 50 mSv per year and in which the level is not likely to go below 20 mSv per year as “difficult-to-return-home” areas. Entry to such areas is more restricted and protective equipment is required for entry. (Id.)