JAPAN | 55 percent of local gov’ts in areas near nuke plants draw up own disaster-prevention plans

Posted on July 27, 2011

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JAPAN | MAINICHI | 27 July 2011

Fifty-five percent of local governments in areas within 10 to 30 kilometers of nuclear power plants in Japan are mapping out a set of independent safety measures, including purchasing Geiger counters and reviewing existing local disaster-prevention programs, in the aftermath of the crisis at the Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant, a Mainichi survey found.

These local governments are working hard to develop disaster-prevention plans of their own because radioactive substances spewing from the crippled Fukushima nuclear power plant have spread beyond areas within 8 to 10 kilometers of the plant, designated by the central government as Emergency Planning Zones (EPZs).

The Mainichi polled 116 Japanese cities, towns and villages that are located within 30 kilometers of nuclear power plants excluding the Fukushima No. 1 and No. 2 nuclear power plants from early to mid-July and received responses from 98 or 84 percent of the total.

The findings came as radiation contamination due to the ongoing nuclear crisis triggered by the March 11 earthquake and tsunami has spread beyond EPZs, forcing the central government to designate areas within 20 kilometers of the stricken plant as exclusion zones and an overwhelming majority of areas within 20 to 30 kilometers as emergency evacuation preparatory zones. Even some hot spots beyond 30 kilometers of the power plants have been designated as planned evacuation zones.

But such designations caused confusion among local governments and residents outside EPZs because those local governments did not have any evacuation plans or enough disaster-prevention gear.

Of 60 local governments outside EPZs that responded to the Mainichi questionnaire, 25 said they were considering reviewing local disaster-prevention plans including evacuation programs in reaction to the Fukushima disaster.

Twenty local governments said they have already drawn up or are planning to write supplementary budgets to cover radiation counters or protective gear while 33 local governments have either reviewed their disaster-prevention plans or prepared supplementary budgets.

Thus, more than half of local governments outside EPZs have been taking steps independently to prepare for a possible nuclear accident.

Of 60 local governments, 95 percent are calling on the central government to quickly revise disaster-prevention guidelines and 75 percent are asking the state to provide financial support.

Asked about an appropriate EPZ size, 31 of the 98 local governments said within a 30-kilometer radius, 12 said within a 20-kilometer radius, one commented within a 40-kilometer radius and four stated within a 50- kilometer radius.

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