Statement on the Occasion of the 10th Anniversary of the Great East Japan Earthquake and the TEPCO Fukushima Dai-ichi Nuclear Power Plant Accident: Continued Undertakings to Facilitate “Humanitarian Recovery” and for the Support of Disaster Victims
This year marks the 10th anniversary of the Great East Japan Earthquake and the Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) Fukushima Dai-ichi Nuclear Power Plant Accident (the “Power Plant Accident”). According to the National Police Agency’s report, as of December 10, 2020, 18,599 people perished and 2,527 remain missing as a result of this accident. Meanwhile, in the affected areas, a large number of disaster victims are still struggling with difficulties.
The Japan Federation of Bar Associations (JFBA) has persistently stressed that the recovery from the disaster should be a “humanitarian recovery” with the purpose being to help victims regain the fundamental human rights guaranteed by the Constitution of Japan. However, in terms of rebuilding the housing environment—which constitutes the very foundation of one’s life—the support systems for housing damage assessment and the reconstruction of livelihoods of disaster victims as well as the emergency temporary housing system, have challenges embedded in themselves. Moreover, these schemes have been designed in such a complex manner that they are insufficient as a support mechanism for the benefit of those affected by disaster. We must not forget the fact that, even after 10 years, there remains a huge number of people who are forced to live in unstable and insecure conditions.
Additionally, no less than 3,767 deaths caused indirectly by the Great East Japan Earthquake have been reported as of September 30, 2020 by the Reconstruction Agency. In order to promote prevention of fatalities that are indirectly related to disasters, the publication of the national government’s survey on the actual state of disaster-related deaths due to the Great East Japan Earthquake is highly anticipated. In order not for the deaths of these people to be in vain, we urge that measures be taken without delay, such as instituting an evacuation system in the event of a major disaster, equipping evacuation centers with adequate and appropriate facilities, and improving medical services systems for disaster response.
The Power Plant Accident in the wake of the Great East Japan Earthquake is an ongoing disaster which we must never cease to remember. Even after 10 years, it is still not possible to foresee recovery from the calamity, with 28,505 citizens (published on February 26, 2021 by Fukushima Prefecture) having lost their hometowns and been forced into displacement in unfamiliar cities. The mental and financial hardship they are experiencing in the prolonged evacuation is unimaginable. It is our sincere hope that a stable foundation for living will be provided as soon as possible to people who were forced to evacuate.
No clear plan has been announced on how the wrecked power plant, which was the site of the accident will be dismantled, or how the radioactive waste will be disposed, with the premises of the plant inundated with storage tanks holding treated water containing tritium deriving from the contaminated water produced after the Power Plant Accident. In addition, the adjoining municipalities are still piled high with flexible intermediate bulk containers storing the removed soil left over by the decontamination activities. It is of concern that, if the disposal of these materials is prolonged, those businesses were devastatingly affected by the Power Plant Accident and the resulting reputational damage will suffer further consequences.
Thus, to facilitate redressing of the damage caused by the Power Plant Accident, the implementation of procedures to mediate settlement overseen by the Nuclear Damage Compensation Dispute Resolution Center (ADR Center) needs to be enhanced further. Additionally, given that 10 years have elapsed since the occurrence of the accident, and as the statute of limitations for claiming compensation for damage associated with the accident matures with each passing day, response measures taken by the Government and Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings, Inc. (former Tokyo Electric Power Company, Incorporated) thereafter must be closely monitored.
The situation of affected people is increasingly diversifying and becoming more complicated as days go by. In working toward the “humanitarian recovery” and to help ensure that inclusive support will be provided to every single disaster survivor, what is effective is to grasp their situation precisely and design a specific livelihood reconstruction plan by combining various measures and programs so that comprehensive support planning including personnel deployment tailored for each disaster victim (Disaster Case Management) will be developed on a national scale. Additionally, it is desirable that the information about disaster victims be shared more actively among local governments as well as between support providers and municipalities.
The JFBA has undertaken various support initiatives in the wake of the Great East Japan Earthquake and the major disasters that followed thereafter one after another, including providing legal counseling for disaster victims and rendering aid in debt workouts through ADR procedures based on the System for Reduction of and Exemption from Double Loan for Disaster Victims. Since last year, combined with the substantial global impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, the circumstances surrounding people affected by the disasters have been aggravated even further. Therefore, toward achieving the goal of a “humanitarian recovery”, the JFBA is committed to continuing its support activities for disaster victims, concentrating the expertise of attorneys and bar associations across the country and the legal profession’s wisdom.
March 11, 2021
President, Japan Federation of Bar Associations