Statement Calling for Application of the Act on Support for Reconstructing the Livelihoods of Disaster Victims to Long-Term Evacuees as a Result of the Fukushima No.1 Nuclear Power Plant Accident
On April 10, 2013, the town of Namie in Fukushima Prefecture submitted a request for recognition of households who have been fleeing their homes for a long term in the wake of the nuclear power plant accident resulting from the Great East Japan Earthquake (the “Disaster”) as households who evacuate for a prolonged period of time as set forth in the Act on Support for Reconstructing the Livelihoods of Disaster Victims (the “Act”) to the central government and Fukushima Prefecture. The Japan Federation of Bar Associations (the “JFBA”) agrees with its details and supports the request.
The Act, which is primarily a program to provide grants for those who have received significant damage to their livelihoods by natural disasters pursuant to Article 1 of the Act, is also considered as fundamental and important assistance measures for those affected by the Disaster. The scope of the aid includes not only households that have received damage to their residence, but also households undergoing long-term evacuations as designated by the Fukushima governor. Thus, essentially, relief under the Act is highly expected to be provided for a significant number of people who are forced into long-term evacuation (evacuation within and outside Fukushima Prefecture accounting for over 150,000 people).
Yet, Fukushima Prefecture has excluded those who have been forced to evacuate over a lengthy period in the aftermath of the Fukushima No.1 Nuclear Power Plant Accident (the “Nuclear Accident”) from the scope of the designation, consequently failing to provide them with grants. Such severe measures for the evacuees is attributed to Fukushima Prefecture’s reliance on a restrictive interpretation by the central government that the scope of the Act is only limited to victims of natural disasters, excluding victims of the Nuclear Accident, a man-made calamity caused by Tokyo Electric Power Company (“TEPCO”).
However, the report released on July 5, 2012, by the National Diet of Japan Fukushima Nuclear Accident Independent Investigation Commission (NAIIC) also concluded that “the natural phenomena - the earthquake and subsequent tsunami caused by the earthquake - were the direct causes of” the Nuclear Accident. There is no doubt that the Nuclear Accident was caused by the earthquake and tsunami, which thereby clearly indicates a causal connection between the Nuclear Accident and natural disasters.
The Act provides relief for disasters triggered by natural disasters irrespective of whether they are caused directly or indirectly by natural disasters. Taking into consideration that the fundamental aim of the Act is to widely provide support for reconstructing the livelihoods of disaster victims, and that the processes of a number of revisions on the Act, and the actual enforcement of the present system, the Act is supposed to be flexibly interpreted and implemented, and thus the restrictive interpretation is not adequate. Rather, the restrictive interpretation which excludes households forced to evacuate for a long term is considered to be in direct conflict with the spirit of the Act.
In the Opinion Paper Concerning the Revision and Improvement of the Enforcement of the Act on Support for Reconstructing Livelihoods of Disaster Victims issued on July 29, 2011, the JFBA made proposals of 1) immediate designation of households who have been and are to be evacuated for a long term pursuant to Article 2, paragraph 2 (c) of the Act, and 2) application of the Act to households whose evacuation is deemed necessary and reasonable to avoid exposure to radiation, as well as to households who are given an evacuation order and others due to the Nuclear Accident.
Evacuees of the Nuclear Accident are falling into distress, running out of funds to meet their everyday needs because of a prolonged evacuation. In light of the current situation of those evacuees, it is necessary to immediately reexamine the restrictive interpretation of the Act, which does not suit the current condition, and to expedite the provision of grants by a flexible implementation of the Act along with the swift realization of appropriate compensation for damage caused by the Nuclear Accident and measures for reconstructing livelihoods through the Act on Special Measure for the Rebirth of Fukushima and the so-called Act on the Protection and Support for Children and Other Victims of the TEPCO Disaster.
While supporting the request by the town of Namie, the JFBA thus calls again on the central government and Fukushima Prefecture for the review of the interpretation of the Act, the active designation of households undergoing long-term evacuation due to the Nuclear Accident in Fukushima Prefecture, and the execution of relief measures of providing grants.
April 26, 2013
Japan Federation of Bar Associations