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Six Months have passed since the Great East Japan Earthquake (September 13, 2011)

post date : 2011.09.13

【Watch Japan Now vol.5/FPCJ】

September 13, 2011



Six Months have passed since the Great East Japan Earthquake


Six months have passed since the Great East Japan Earthquake

On September 11, six months after the Great East Japan Earthquake occurred on March 11, many disaster-hit local governments sounded sirens at 2:46 p.m. --- the exact time the disaster hit the Tohoku region --- and people offered silent prayers for the deceased. According to the National Police Agency, as of September 10, the disaster left 15,781 people dead and 4,086 still missing. The Cabinet Office announced that the number of evacuees nationwide exceeds 80,000. According to the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism, 49,125, or about 94% of the necessary temporary houses, have been completed. Evacuation centers in Iwate, Miyagi and Fukushima prefectures numbered about 1,800 right after the disaster, but on August 31, all the centers in Iwate Prefecture and almost all in Fukushima Prefecture were closed.


Recovering Traffic Systems

Roads, railways and other traffic infrastructure in the Tohoku region have been steadily recovering. The Tohoku Shinkansen bullet train services are expected to get back to their pre-disaster operations when the reduced speed on services in some sections is lifted on September 23. The arterial highways in East Japan have almost recovered, the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism announced. Sendai Airport, the air gateway of the Tohoku region, started on July 25 its regular domestic services and almost all the international airlines using the airport have announced that they will resume operations. Harbor facilities are, however, slow to recover. Of the 373 public quays, only 199 are in use now; full-scale rehabilitation is urgently needed.


Progress Status of the Roadmap towards Restoration from the Accident at Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant (NPP)

The Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant (NPP) has been in the “Step 2” phase in the road map toward bringing the plant under control. The main target of the “Step 2” is to achieve a “cold shutdown,” which means bringing the temperatures of the reactors below 100 degrees Celsius, by no later than January next year. With the “circulating injection cooling” system continuously in operation, which purifies contaminated radioactive water accumulated in the premises of the NPP to reuse it for cooling the reactors down, the temperatures of the reactor pressure vessel bottoms were 86.2 degrees Celsius for Unit 1 and 95.9 for Unit 3 as of the morning of September 7, the Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) reports. To achieve a “cold shutdown,” therefore, TEPCO has only to succeed in cooling down Unit 2, whose reactor pressure vessel bottom was still as hot as 113 degrees Celsius. TEPCO also announced on September 11 that the level of highly-contaminated water accumulated in the turbine buildings of Units 2 and 3 had lowered to less than three meters above sea level and it is now almost unlikely that the polluted water will flow into the sea through the tunnels connected to the turbine buildings.


Scheme of TEPCO’s Payment of Compensation for Fukushima Daiichi NPP Accident 

On August 30, following an interim guideline compiled by the Dispute Reconciliation Committee of the government on August 5, TEPCO announced the criteria for calculating the compensation for damage from the Fukushima Daiichi NPP accident and application procedures. It is estimated that TEPCO will receive 400-500 thousand applications including those from 15,000 evacuees. TEPCO started accepting applications on September 12, and will start to pay from early October. 


Inauguration of the New Noda Cabinet

On September 2, the new Noda Cabinet was inaugurated. In a press conference at his office, new Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda cited as top-priority issues 1) rehabilitation and reconstruction from the Great East Japan Earthquake, and 2) overcoming of the Fukushima Daiichi NPP accident and radioactive decontamination in surrounded areas, and said that Japan’s recovery would not be achieved without Fukushima’s recovery. On energy policy, while he showed his will to follow the “denuclearization” policy, Prime Minister Noda wished to obtain the understanding of local people to restart the nuclear power plants, which were currently suspended for regular testing. 


In the new Cabinet, Mr. Goshi Hosono, Minister for Nuclear Accident Settlement and Prevention, concurrently Minister of State for Cooperation in support of Compensation for Nuclear Damage, and Mr. Tatsuo Hirano, Minister for Post-disaster Reconstruction, concurrently Minister of State for Disaster Management remained in office from the Kan Cabinet. On August 15, the government made a Cabinet decision to integrate the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency, under the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry, and the Nuclear Safety Commission under the Cabinet Office, and establish a new nuclear safety agency under the Ministry of the Environment. Mr. Hosono also serves as Minister of the Environment.


Prime Minister Noda visited Fukushima Prefecture on September 8. He visited the Fukushima Daiichi NPP and a site of pool decontamination at an elementary school in Date City. He then met with Fukushima governor Yuhei Sato. He pledged that the government would immediately pursue the decontamination of the radioactive substances released by the nuclear plant accident. He also visited Kesennuma City, Miyagi Prefecture, and Rikuzentakata City, Iwate Prefecture, on September 10.


(Copyright 2011 Foreign Press Center/Japan)

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